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UNIVERSITY 
OF FLORIDA 
LIBRARIES 




COLLEGE UBRARV 



THE BOAT 



By the same author 



NIGHT FEARS AND OTHER STORIES 

SIMONETTA PERKINS 

THE KILLING BOTTLE 

THE SHRIMP AND THE ANEMONE 

THE SIXTH HEAVEN 

EUSTACE AND HILDA 



THE BOAT 

By 
L. P. HARTLEY 



DOUBLEDAY & CO., INC. 

Garden City 
NEW YORK, 1950 



hl33S(t 

First published November 1949 



Printed in Qrcat Britain by 
Chas. Pearson &l Son Ltd., London, E,i, 



TO 
MISS ETHEL SANDS 



Digitized by tlie Internet Arciiive 

in 2012 witli funding from 

LYRASIS IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 



http://archive.org/details/boatxOOhart 



THE BOAT 



Qaze on the wretch, recall to mind 
His golden days left long behind. 

Emily Bronte. 



THE BOAT 



CHAPTER I 

'This is a quiet little hole," said the cook. She was telephoning 
to a friend in the market town of Swirrelsford, eight miles 
away. 

"I don't think I shall want to stay here long. And Efiie 
doesn't want to either. Her feet play her up something terrible. 
All stone floors they are in our part, and the scullery, you never 
saw such a place, a real death-trap. And then there's that man. 
What's that you said, dear? Oh not him, he's all right in his 
way, a bit potty, if you ask me. No, it's him. , . . Oh, I 
thought you understood who, dear. I wouldn't demean myself 
by mentioning his name. The gardener, if you can call him one. 
You'd have to laugh if you saw what he brings in. Yesterday I 
took the basket straight in to Mr. Casson, just as it was, and 
showed him. That's for three people,' I said. I didn't need to 
say any more. So I just said, 'Will you please speak to him 
about it?' But he won't, not he, he hasn't the spirit of a wood- 
louse. And where does it all go to, that's what a good many of 
us would like to know, because it doesn't come in here. It's 
not very nice, is it, dear, having to deal with people like that? 
that you can't trust, no, not an inch. And what makes me mad is 
that Mr. Casson likes him, just because he sponges up to him. 
But of course he's lived abroad and doesn't understand what 
honesty is. Italians are not people according to our ideas, and 
anyhow they'll soon be fighting against us, the dirty tykes. 
Ice-creamers, some call them, but it's too polite for them. So 
under the circumstances I shall give in my notice. . . . Why 
don't you say something, dear, you leave me to do all the 
talking. . . . 

*'I don't know what you mean. Of course you could have got 
a word in. Anyhow you have now, haven't you? You've said 
quite a lot. Yes, of course he is a single man, I admit that, at 
least I suppose so, you can't be sure with anyone who's lived 
abroad, and he doesn't go poking his nose into what isn't his 
business. He wants to have guests though, but I put my foot 



4 THE BOAT 

down about that. *I can manage,' I told him, as straight as I'm 
telling you, *if you don't have guests.' *I get rather lonely some- 
times,' he said. 'Yes,' I said, 'but think if you were in the 
trenches like our poor boys are. They've got good reason to be 
lonely, they have.' People ought not to talk that way even if they 
are too old to be out there. He didn't say anything, what could he 
say ? Besides the tables are turned now, they can't talk to us like 
they used to, they know they can't get anyone in our place. 
The boot's on the other foot now. That's why I shall give in 
my notice. You aren't saying very much, dear, you never used 
to be so silent. . . . 

''Yes, I can, I know it is nice to be near you, dear, but I 
could get a place in Swirrelsford any day, and the buses only 
run from here three times a week. Yes, I should think he's fairly 
well off, it's not that, and I must think of Effie first, as I always 
do, and she always has liked the country. She says the air would 
be doing her good if it wasn't for her feet. But I don't know — 
the mists that come up out of this old river — why, sometimes 
you can't hardly see across the lawn. I shouldn't call it healthy. 
But Mr. Casson says he wants to go out in his boat. He must be 
mad. Think of boating in this weather. We ought to have central 
heating with Effie as delicate as she is. 

"Yes, dear, I'll think over what you said, but I think I shall 
give in my notice all the same, because it never does to be put 
upon, and if I do, he will understand better how difficult things 
are here and what I have to put up with from that man. Good- 
bye, dear, cheerio, Abyssinia." 

She put down the ivory-coloured receiver, opened the 
shutters, switched off the light, and left the telephone room to 
glimmer pallidly in the winter dawn. In the hall she found 
Effie, sweeping the black and white square tiles. 

"Oh, Beattie, what were you saying?" The housemaid was 
tall and slender, with pretty, fluffy, faded golden hair and a 
small round face flushed with tea and exertion. Beatrice was 
short, dark and compact, her powerful nose a curving ramp 
beneath her continuous black eyebrows. 

"What made you tell her you were giving in your notice?" 

Making a great effort, Beatrice turned on Effie a look that was 
almost hostile. "I wish you wouldn't listen at the keyhole, 



THE BOAT D 

dear." 

"I wasn't listening," cried Effie, indignantly. "You don't 
know how you raise your voice when you get excited. Anyone 
can hear you. I expect Mr. Casson could hear you quite well. 
Hark! He's running his bath." 

The two women listened to the sound as it came sliding down 
the curving stair. 

'*I don't care if he does hear," said Beatrice. '^Do him good, 
that's what I say." She paused to savour her defiance, and then 
went on in a different tone. 

"But what's come over you, Efiie? The other day you were 
as keen to go as I am." 

"Oh I dunno." said Effie, "I can't be forever chopping and 
changing. You go if you want to. I shan't, not for a while, 
anyhow." 

Beatrice looked at her in consternation. 

"But we've been together all these years." 

"You don't need to tell me that," said Effie airily. "Maybe we 
should get on better on our own. A change is good for everyone, 
they say." 

The pause that followed was broken by the rasp of hob-nailed 
boots grating on the flagstones in the kitchen. 

"There he is!" cried Beatrice. "I declare the sound of him 
makes me want to gag. Come with me, Effie. I really dursn't 
face him alone." 

"Why, what's wrong with him?" 

"What's wrong with him? And you of all people to ask me 
that!" 

"I've got my sweeping to do and my table to lay," complained 
Effie. "He's no different from other men. He won't eat you." 

"Oh, Effie, and I done the telephone room for you and 
opened up the shutters." 

"Very well, then," said Effie. "But talk about people wanting 
their own way!" 

Propping her brush against the white panelled wall, she 
followed Beatrice through a swing door down a short passage 
which ended in a side door, and had a door on the right which 
led into the kitchen. 

"Good morning, ladies," said the gardener, straightening 



THE BOAT 



himself from the stooping position which gardeners so readily 
assume. **How are you, this fine morning?" 

His bright brown eyes held them. He was a thickset man of 
about forty'five, whose breadth made him look shorter than he 
was. His brown moustache was inclined to be ragged, and even 
at this early hour his hands were caked with earth. 

*'Mind your muddy boots on my clean floor," snapped 
Beatrice. "I had to do it all over again after you yesterday." 

"There now, isn't that a shame?" said the gardener, shifting 
his glance from Beatrice to Eflie. "If I'd known, I'd have done it 
for you." 

"Like hell you would," said Beatrice, but her tones lacked 
conviction, and the taunt fell flat. 

"'Tis Mrs. Burnett that do the scrubbing anyhow," said the 
gardener. "You've no call to grumble." 

"Mrs. Burnett didn't come yesterday," said Beatrice, 
triumphantly establishing her ground of complaint. "She sent a 
message to say her mother was took ill. There's some folks in 
this village whose relations are always falling ill, I'm thinking." 

The gardener smiled at Effie. 

"What a nasty sarcastic tongue your friend's got," he said. 
"I wonder you don't get kind o' sour, listening to her day in, 
day out." 

"Well, she does get a bit on my nerves at times, but I don't 
mind, do I, Beattie? I dare say your wife says a few words to you 
on occasion." 

"Oh no, Mrs. Wimbush doesn't, not she," said the gardener. 
"She's got plenty to do without that. She's got five children to 
look after, not counting me. She wouldn't know what to do 
with herself if I was a well-off single gentleman like Mr. Casson. 
Some people has all the luck." 

"Meaning who?" demanded Beatrice. 

"I shan't mention no names because you wouldn't like it if 
I did. And I don't mean Mr. Casson, either." 

He winked at Effie, who found it increasingly easy to keep 
her temper as the others were losing theirs. 

"Now, you two," she said pacifically. "You'd argue the hind 
leg off a donkey. Don't pay any attention to him, Beattie, he 
only wants to tease." 



THE BOAT / 

*'I wish he'd clear out of my kitchen, then," stormed Beatrice. 
''The proper place for gardeners is in the garden." 

''All right," said Wimbush. "You can bring your own wood 
in next time. I'm not going to get it for you, you old so and 
so. . . ." The rest of his remark was drowned by the sudden 
whirr of an electric bell. 

"That's him," exclaimed Beatrice. "Now he'll be wanting 
his breakfast. Men are all alike — they've no consideration." 
She bustled into the larder, slamming the door. Wimbush 
picked up the empty skep and said to Effie: 

"Don't you ever get fed up with that old bitch?" 

EfHe^rew herself up. "What a horrid word to use, Mr. 
Wimbush. I won't talk to you if you speak of my friend like 
that." She looked at him again and at his big earth-caked hand, 
as brown and tough as the skep that dangled from it, and 
something in her melted. "Well, I do a bit at times," she said. 

"Now youWe different," said the gardener. He squared his 
shoulders, and smoothed his hair with his free hand. "You and 
me could get on quite well together." 

"Oh Mr. Wimbush," tittered Effie. "You oughtn't to say 
that." The larder door opened, and he stumped out. 



THE BOAT 



CHAPTER II 

Timothy Casson sat down at his writing table. It was of oak, 
or imitation oak, stained nearly black, and very solid; large 
brass studs clamped the scratched and faded leather to the 
wood-work. It had the inertia, without the strength, of massive- 
ness ; it was a dead weight, which challenged his mind to lift it. 
He looked across the ink-stained surface to the snowy scene 
beyond. The light streamed up at him, filling the cornices 
behind his head with pale blue shadows. Gingerly he pushed 
open the shell-inlaid lid of the converted knife-box ; it fell back 
with a startling rattle, as though guillotined. Lined with violet 
velvet, the deep slots did not surrender the quarry easily, but 
at last he fished up a sheet of paper, and began to write. 

The Old Rectory, 

Upton-on-Swirrel, 

Nr. SWIRRELSFORD. 

16th January, 1940. 
My dear Magda, 

I am here at last. As a matter of fact I 'moved in' just before 
Christmas, but seem to have had no time to turn round. Not 
that I've much to do, but you know how curious and unreal one 
feels in a strange house. Nothing here is mine, of course; my 
things are all at Villa Lucertola, in the care of dear Amalia and 
Armando: you remember them — you thought them such a 
handsome couple. I know you don't like Italians much, but they 
weren't really Fascists, though latterly they had to pretend to be. 

Well, I took this house furnished. I can't imagine what you'll 
say to the furniture; it's what you most dislike, heavy and dark 
brown, everything upholstered and self-important like a stage 
dowager of the 'nineties, with some shiny stream-lined pieces of 
modern date among them, hard and sharp and engine-turned, 
that look as though they would hurt if you touched them. The 
house itself is rather nice, or might be; it's been bedevilled, of 
course, but the garden-side isn't altogether un-Queen Anne and 



THE BOAT 9 

has such a lovely view. There's the substratum of a little terrace, 
and then a dipping lawn, and then the river; and beyond the 
river, on the opposite bank, a Stonehenge effect of fantastic 
pink Wagnerian rocks, leaning affectionately towards each 
other, like drunken dolmens, and the green of the moss on their 
sides and the yellow grass on their crests — -I can't tell you how 
vivid it is against the pink. Not now, of course; now they're 
covered with snow, and the pink, which shows in patches, looks 
almost black. Snow falsifies every colour-value, doesn't it? 
but I must say the Welsh hills, which must be any number of 
miles away, do look rather wonderful, and with that remote, 
high, mystical light on them where their summits touch the sky. 

The boat-house you would love. It's Gothic Revival, with 
stained-glass windows and a pointed roof, which just shows 
from where I'm sitting. And I needn't tell you there's a boat 
inside, my boat that I had brought here — indeed I took the 
house, really, to give a home to the boat. For reasons too 
boring to go into I haven't been able to use it yet. But I shall. 
What do you think I ought to row in? Shorts do not become 
my advancing years (forty-nine now, dear Magda) and flannel 
trousers are so dull. But row I must, if only to keep my figure 
from falling too far below your exacting requirements. Tell me 
when you write. You have an absolute sense of period — but I 
never quite know what period I belong to! 

I haven't mentioned the war, have I? But then no one does. 
Most people think it's practically over. But you're in a better 
position to judge than I am, with your work at the Ministry of 
Appearances. I expect I ought to have tried to get a war-job, 
but then I am 50 unwarlike. And you have always said that one 
has but one duty — to look right for the circumstances. But I'm 
not sure I could look right in a war. Khaki's the only wear. 

Timothy paused, thought, and sighed heavily. On the 
blotting-paper he tried to make a drawing of Magda's face. The 
parrot beak was a vile travesty of her nose, which was really 
only a little pronounced; and the wa\^ hair, that was alwavs 
dressed so smartly and as though it had a special understanding 
with the brush, had turned to copper-wire. 

By the way, did you get a small token from me at Christmas ? 



10 THE BOAT 

A bottle of scent — I got it at Bertini's the last day I went shop- 
ping in Venice. The name would have amused you, but it was 
so embarrassing that I soaked the label off, so as not to shock 
the Customs. Italians love up-to-date English slang, but they 
don't always know when to use it. I can only say (and this is a 
compliment, so don't be offended) that if the object had really 
been what it was so quaintly called, to have given it to you 
would have been like sending coals to Newcastle. All the same, 
little as you need it, I can't help hoping it reached you ! 

My spare rooms aren't quite what I could wish, but when 
they are more comfortable, you will come, won't you? Such 
heavenly country, and only five hours from London — a mere 
nothing. 

Ever yours, Timothy. 

I like your cagey address. But you seem to have turned into an 
algebraic symbol! 

He took an envelope and wrote — 
Mrs. Magda Vivian, 
Box 2xy, W.C.D.O. 

Timothy got up and walked about, rubbing his hands, for the 
wood fire did not suffice to warm the room. But he regarded 
the fire with pride and affection and it warmed his spirit 
because he had cut the logs himself, with the help of the gar- 
dener and a two-handed saw. Coal was already getting scarce, 
but Timothy, like others in those early days, found an exhilara- 
tion in answering the call to austerity. 

His circulation restored, he sat down again, and again angled 
for writing-paper in the finger-pinching velvet. 

''Esther, my dear," he wrote, 

*This is just to wish you, rather late, a very Happy New Year, 
and to give you my news, such as it is. 

*'As you see, I took the Upton house after all — you called it 
a golden plan, and I hope it will turn out to be. In the end I 
decided in a hurry, and without showing the agreement to my 
solicitors, which was perhaps not very sensible — " 

Timothy broke off. Esther had a wholesome horror of a 
grievance, and after all he had only himself to blame. 



THE BOAT 11 

''Miss Chadwick, my landlady, is a very nice woman, and 
descended, I should think, from a long line of Deans. She has a 
patina of 1880 Isle of Wight high bourgeois culture, which I 
like. She wasn't in the least impressed when I told her I was 
'Lombard' of the Broadside; she only said, with acid sweetness, 
that my article made the rest of the paper seem so high-brow, 
and added 'I'm afraid you won't find our farm labourers as 
picturesque as your peasants.' To my relief, the Broadside is 
keeping me on, to write about the English countryside instead 
of the Italian, and my job is listed as a reserved occupation, 
which means I shan't be 'directed into industry.' 'Pictures of 
Britain' they want me to call my sketches. At any rate I ought to 
have a fresh eye, not having lived in England, except as a visitor, 
for eighteen years. 

"The only drawback is, the people round here are much less 
forthcoming than my friends on the Brenta ; so the one article 
I've written so far was a landscape without figures. Miss Chad- 
wick said something about behaving in a neighbourly way, and 
I fully mean to, but she also said that village people are naturally 
reserved with strangers : so how am I to begin ? At present I rely 
on the society of my servants, two middle-aged women of 
extreme respectability, who have always been in service 
together. I think I am going to like them very much. They 
are a little distant with me, but of course that is the way with 
English servants, and doesn't mean that they like one less. My 
gardener is an amusing fellow, a regular card ; and I think they 
all have good times together in the kitchen (Servants' hall we 
have none. This is a small house, six bedrooms all told). I 
can hear their voices sounding most animated over their 
elevenses. I think we are a happy nucleus. 

"But to return to my neighbours, or lack of neighbours. I 
feel you can advise me about them, having lived so much in the 
country. I wish I'd taken notes, all the times I've stayed with 
you at Langton Place! Only of course it's different for you: 
your family is the pivot on which the village has turned for 
generations. If you want to know anyone, you merely have to 
call on them. I can't do that, I have to wait to be called on, it 
seems. (In Italy, as you know, it's the other way round.) But I 
have one acquaintance in the district — a very important one, 



12 THE BOAT 

only I haven't seen her yet: Mrs. Lampard. 

**She is important because she is the chief landowner round 
here, she rules the roost; and she is specially important to me 
because, apparently, I have to get her permission before I can 
use my boat. It's a question of the fishing-rights. The agents 
told me—" 

Timothy thought, frowned, and scratched *the agents told 
me' out. Esther would not want to hear the tale of their 
misdeeds. 

''Miss Chadwick told me that the fishermen would certainly 
resent my rowing my boat on their private waters. I said I knew 
nothing about fly-fishing; but surely it doesn't begin till the 
mayfly rises? She said, 'No, but the fish have to have a quiet 
time to breed.' I went into this with my gardener, who after all 
belongs to the place and knows how fishes behave, and he said 
it was rubbish, because the fish withdraw from the main river 
and go into creeks and inlets to breed, so my boat couldn't 
disturb them. 'Anyhow,' he added, 'Nature is nature, and if the 
fish wanted to breed neither your boat nor a battleship would 
stop they from breeding.' I challenged Miss Chadwick with 
this, and she said, with a slight air of superiority, that one would 
not go to gardeners to learn about the habits of fish. In fact she 
disabled his judgment. 'And in any case,' she said, 'if you do 
put your boat on the river it will be regarded as an unfriendly 
act and make a bad impression. But of course if Mrs. Lampard 
says you can! — ' 

"So what luck that I know Mrs. Lampard. At least she 
was brought out to lunch with me at the Lucertola — twice, if I 
remember. And she asked me to call on her in London, but I 
never did. That was a good many years ago; she was rather 
formidable then, and I gather is more so now. But I wrote to 
her just after Christmas, reminding her of our meeting and 
asking if she had any objection to my using the boat; and her 
secretary replied, quite civilly, but rather formally, and not 
referring to our having met abroad, to say that Mrs. Lampard 
was not very well but she would let me know about the boat 
later. And there for the moment the matter rests. Don't worry! 
— I shan't make a grievance of it ! 

"It looks as if the war might fizzle out, doesn't it? But I expect 



THE BOAT 13 

you are frightfully busy, helping and organizing and smoothing 
things over. I haven't any evacuees yet, and I rather hope I 
shan't, for Beatrice and Effie, my very nice maids, don't like 
the idea of them. So at the moment I have three spare bedrooms, 
or shall have when I've collected a few more sheets and blankets. 
Miss Chadwick — " 

Timothy erased 'Miss Chadwick'. He hadn't realised how the 
scores were mounting up against her. He went on — Langton is 
a long way off, but if you could spare a few days at the 
week-end or in the middle of the week, you know how wel- 
come you would be, dear Esther, and you would raise me in 
the esteem of my staff (who have had ratlier 'good' places, 
they tell me). Just send a telegram. 

Timothy signed his name and had already written on the 
envelope The Hon. Mrs. Morwen, Langton Place,' when he 
paused, shrugged his shoulders, sucked his lips in, puffed his 
cheeks out, opened and closed his hands. To weigh one im- 
ponderable against another, what a hopeless task! He took up 
his pen again. 

''By the way, did you get a small gift from me at Christmas? 
Very likely not, so many things go astray, besides, the shop 
may have forgotten to put in my name. It was a thermos flask — 
a dull, empty present, but I'm told they may get scarce. Don't 
bother to write if you have got it — what can one say about a 
thermos flask? But send me a postcard if you haven't, and I'll 
stir up the shop." 

Two letters by eleven o'clock and such long ones; already 
he had something to show for the day. But not very good 
letters: too much about himself and not enough about his 
correspondents. Mme. de Sevigne would have made them feel, 
from the first word, that they were living in her mind, and that 
they were the object of these letters which, without them, and 
her need to get into touch with them, to glorify them and 
surround them with a pearly nimbus of affection, could never 
have been written. And she would have contrived to give them 
news of herself, all the same — only, herself mingled with them, 
drenched in their consciousness of her. And he had said 
almost nothing about the war. 

What would they think of that? Though so different, they 



14 THE BOAT 

were alike in being far more war-minded than he was. Mme. de 
S^vigne frequently referred to the wars — **The success of the 
French in every country surpasses belief, and I give thanks for 
this in my evening prayers." But enough of her. 

Posterity, at whose dim, unexpectant face Timothy sometimes 
peered, would learn nothing about Magda and Esther from 
these letters. It would not see Magda' s tall slight figure with its 
awkward grace, or hear her throaty voice, a little huskier, per* 
haps, from the cocktails and cigarettes; they would not realise 
how purposeful was her transcience as the air parted and closed 
behind her in flat and bar and restaurant and night-club. She 
hated to linger ; she must move on or be overtaken by the bore- 
dom which was ever at her heels — her only constant com- 
panion. Of her two husbands there remained no trace, not even 
the name of the last one. She was about as permanent as a 
manicure or a massage, much less permanent than a permanent 
wave. And she had rather that effect on one ; that was why people 
liked her (those who did like her). She was a wash-and-brush-up, 
a shampoo; to those whom the phrase applied, a beauty treat- 
ment; astringent, but freshening. One associated her with any 
fashionable resort, but not with any special place. 

Whereas Esther was inconceivable apart from Langton, and 
the many-voiced creative stir of its shifting or indigenous 
population — the relations, the children, the guests, the dogs, 
and now (Timothy felt sure) the soldiers and the evacuees. 
Timothy stayed with her whenever he came to England. She 
did not always notice him when he was there, but she wanted 
him in her system; she was indignant if he delayed to come, and 
rather reproachful when he went away. No one ever stayed with 
Magda, except for bed and breakfast, even in the days when she 
had a husband and a home ; for long together, the non-amorous 
proximity of another person bored her. 

Writing to them had made him wish for their company. He 
was handicapped, as always in writing to these two old and dear 
friends, by the fact that Magda had an aesthetic, and Esther a 
conventional, view of life. Two broad and comprehensive fields 
of vision; but anything that fell outside Magda's bored her, and 
anything that seriously smacked of unconventionality puzzled 
and irritated Esther. They did not like each other very much, 



THE BOAT 15 

Timothy reflected; neither would be pleased to know that he 
had written to the other. To Magda, Esther seemed frumpish, 
muddle-headed, untidy, dull-edged if not dull; while Esther 
thought of Magda as too smart, too stream-lined, too soignee; 
trembling, no, poised on the edge of a world she did not care to 
know, not quite second-rate, but nearly; perhaps, in her hard 
bright glitter, a little selfish. . . . No, not selfish, for Esther, as a 
woman of the world, was chary of moral judgments. She would 
say that Magda was restless or unreliable or disappointing, or 
that she had thrown away her chances. 

Thinking of moral judgments reminded Timothy that he still 
had a letter to write. But his mind, launched on its career of 
evocation, would not be turned aside. Suddenly it was filled 
with light, a light far warmer than the bluish pallor reflected 
from the ground beyond his window ; the light of a July after- 
noon in the Piazza in Venice ; and out of this radiance stepped 
Tyrone Mac Adam, hatless, his wispy hair flickering over his 
oncoming baldness, like flames round an egg — unshaven, un- 
tidy, in fact almost dirty, swinging in his hand the paper bag in 
which he so often carried his lunch. 

Tve come from Verona,' he announced. *I was just in time to 
see the last performance of Ballo in Maschera, Quite good; but 
they did it better at Dresden in 1934, and at the San Carlo in 
1936, and not much worse, if the soprano hadn't been so 
frightful, at Basle in 1931. You've seen it, of course?' 

Timothy had to admit that he had not. 

*Oh, you disgust me,' exclaimed Tyro, accepting the chair that 
Timothy pushed out, squeaking, on the pavement towards him. 
*You well-off English people — yes, I will have some tea, 
thank you — you come out to Italy and what good do you get 
from it? You hang about in places like this where you simply 
see other people like yourselves, gorging and guzzling like your- 
selves, killing time and killing thought; then just when it's 
time to go home you have a look at St. Mark's and the Doge's 
Palace, and then you go back to England and say how rude 
the Fascists are, because they make you take your feet oif the 
seats in the railway carriages, and how cruel to the Abyssinians, 
because they use against them the weapons of modern warfare 
which the English never use, oh never, against races less civilised 



16 THE BOAT 

than themselves. You could have learnt all that by staying at 
home and reading the paper. It makes me so angry when I see 
supposedly intelligent people Uke yourself doing that kind of 
thing.' 

'But I don't, I don't,' protested Timothy, while Tyro with a 
grimy pocket handkerchief wiped his fingers and then his face. 
'I don't like the Fascists, it's true, and Italy has been far less 
pleasant since they came into power — for the Italians, as well as 
us. But I'm not politically-minded in the Continental sense, and 
I don't want to be. I don't think any good comes of it.' Timothy 
glared at his friend, who was staring at the strollers and paying 
him very little attention. 

T beg your pardon, Timothy,' he said, with the charming 
smile and beautiful manners that every now and then flashed 
through his habitual air of crossness. 

T was saying I didn't want to be politically-minded.' The 
remark sounded less striking when repeated. T like the Italians 
very much, just as much as you do, only I don't want always to 
see them in a contrast, and as one side of an argument. I just 
want to get on with them, and enjoy being with them as I have 
done, most gratefully and happily, for eighteen years, and mean 
to go on doing.' 

'You won't go on much longer,' said his companion, with 
gloomy relish, 'because there's going to be a war, and all brought 
on by people like you, with no moral sense.' 

'I like that!' cried Timothy, 'I've done my best, in a small 
way, to foster good feeling between England and Italy. I've 
even had a row with the editor of the Broadside because I 
haven't more openly condemned the regime.' 

'Oh, I know your 'Lombard' stuff, exuding sunshine and 
sweetness, and the signore inglese, cosi buono, cosi ricco, dis- 
tributing kind words and kinder soldi among the snivelling 
contadini — cosi grati, cosi riconoscenti. That's not what's 
wanted. What's wanted is to tell the English that, with their 
record, they have no right to take a high moral line against 
aggression. Such hypocrisy! It only brings morals into disrepute. 
As an Irishman and a Scotsman, and for all I know, as a Welsh- 
man, I can tell you that when I hear the word aggression on an 
English lip it makes me sweat at my knee-caps.' 



THE BOAT 17 

'But you always said you were an American.' 

*By birth, yes. But don't speak to me of nationalities. I'm a 
citizen of the world, I hope. It makes me so angry when I hear 
people vaunting their beastly birthplaces, just as if there was 
some virtue in being born a Siamese or a Hottentot.' 

'Oh come now,' said Timothy. 'Your morality is a form of 
war-mongering too. But couldn't we dine together? Where are 
you staying?' 

'My usual address— care of Cook's.' 

Timothy directed a baffled glance to where, on the left side of 
St. Mark's, the homely English name, writ large on the Venetian 
wall, had begun to assume, in this troubled and menacing 
summer of 1939, an air as comforting and reassuring as the 
word 'policeman' to the well-doer. 

'Couldn't you stay at the Lucertola, and still be care of 
Cook's?' 

'I suppose I could. Thank you, Timothy. 'Be given to 
hospitality,' the Apostle said, and you are. But don't imagine 
your hospitality will avert a European War. I suppose you 
think, from the way I spoke just now, that I'm in favour of 
Fascism?' 

'It sounded a little — ' 

'Well, I'm not. I'm not in favour of any country, and not 
particularly keen about the human race. There's not an ounce 
of good in any of them, as you'll find out if you live long 
enough.' 

"My dear Tyro," wrote Timothy, and stopped, for he could 
not remember his friend's address. Care of Cook's would find 
him, no doubt; but it was discouraging when you had written 
someone a letter, as Tyro had to Timothy, a long one, to dis- 
cover that not only had the recipient failed to keep it, but 
had not even troubled to make a note of the address. 

Timothy had a large correspondence, some of it from 
Italians both in Italy and England, commenting on his articles. 
Scarcer than they used to be, the letters from Italy also took 
longer to arrive, and they were disfigured with large rectangular 
smudges as of lamp-black, around which, could be descried a 
few limbs of letters, tossing like disjected fly's legs on an inky 
sea. To think that his communication with Italy, once perfect 



18 THE BOAT 

and complete, should be reduced — when the correspondent 
had anything he really wanted to say — to meaningless pot- 
hooks ! 

Timothy had a habit of leaving small caches of letters 
wherever he sat or lingered; they sprang up like rubbish 
dumps in the hollows round a village. He regretted them, but 
could not stop them. Now he must visit each in turn, like a 
Government employee collecting salvage. How gay and wel- 
coming the hall would be if only the fanlight over the door, and 
the larger lunette, above the somewhat exiguous window on the 
staircase, were not permanently blacked out > with cardboard! 
Dark, dark, dark, total eclipse! No, not total, for the severely 
rationed, snow-sunlight filtered shyly through the banisters. 
Slender, twisted, closely set, they had an air of breeding, and 
Miss Chadwick had been right to beg him not to break them. 

Up he went, and down a dark passage on whose indigo- 
tinted skylight the snow lay piled ; and so to his bedroom with 
its blue rep carpet and the two deeply-recessed windows 
looking on the river. On the long pointed roof of the boat- 
house snow lay in patches; the little cluster of bamboos in 
which it nestled, shivered, he could almost hear the dry rustle, 
as the wind stirred their yellow stems and withered leaves. 

But here, too, his search was vain, for the heap on the 
dressing-table only yielded long bluish letters of business cut, 
from which Timothy's mind shied away. Downstairs again, and 
into the telephone-room. This pile was much tidier than when 
he left it: Effie had done her work well — or was it Beatrice who 
'did' the telephone-room? They each had their bounds beyond 
which they might not pass. He fingered the miscellaneous 
missives and at the bottom lay Tyro's. 

A feeling of guilt mitigated Timothy's triumph, for the letter 
was much too private to leave lying about. Still, it gave him the 
address he wanted, and he wrote it down at once, — The 
Censor's Office, Liverpool. Then, he went on. 

"I'm sorry you find your fellow-censors unsympathetic, 
but at any rate you have someone to browbeat, which is more 
than I have here. The village seems to be divided into two 
nations: not Disraeli's two, the rich and the poor, but the old 
stagers and the newcomers. The old stagers are retired soldiers 



THE BOAT 19 

and professional men; the newcomers are of all sorts, but 
chiefly refugees from the Midlands fleeing from the bombs to 
come. (I don't think there will be any, do you?) My gardener, 
who is my chief source of information, tells me the two factions 
don't mix at all: they are like oil and water, he said, and indeed 
he always says it, whenever these Montagues and Capulets are 
mentioned. Nor, I gather, do the villagers in his own walk of 
life mix much : he told me with pride that in the twenty years he 
had been here, no one had crossed his threshold for a cup of 
tea, nor had he crossed anyone else's. 'It's the only way,' he 
said, darkly, 'It's the only way.' To what? I wondered. 

'1 have never knowingly set eyes on one of the gentry; 
perhaps they only come out at night and by day are shut away 
behind their high garden walls and thick box hedges. (I picture 
them as old, but of course they may not be.) The invaders, on 
the other hand, wallow in visibility; they walk down the street 
four abreast, the women in trousers and the men in sporting 
checks, pushing perambulators and summoning the straggling 
toddlers in no uncertain voices. They pass the time of day, and 
would do more, I think, only I don't know how much I want to 
be involved with them — it isn't just snobbery, but I do have to 
protect my time a little — also I feel that of the two sets I would 
rather make friends with the old-timers — I have a special 
reason for wanting to be in their good graces — from which 
friendship with the others would apparently debar me. . . . 

*'You ask how long I've taken the house for. Well, thereby 
hangs a tale. I was considering the agreement and going to send 
it to my solicitor in London, when the house agents rang me 
up and said that unless I signed at once they would offer the 
house to someone else. I'm sure this was a bluff, and they 
couldn't have done it legally, with the negotiations so far 
advanced; but there's such a scarcity of houses that I didn't 
dare risk it. Now I have had a reproachful letter from my 
solicitors telling me I've taken the house for five years without 
the power to break the let (though my landlady can), that I 
can't sublet without her permission, that I shan't be able to 
store the fruit, only pick it up off the ground, or eat it as it 
becomes ripe (you can imagine me gobbling all day and dying 
of a surfeit), that my landlady may 'enter' at any time, 'having 



20 THE BOAT 

given sufficient warning.' And she does: only yesterday she 
entered and took away a pair of sheets saying that as a bachelor 
I could not possibly need them. 

''But what I really mind about is the boat. The house-agents' 
prospectus said 'Boating and Bathing on the River Swirrel.' 
I came, I saw, I liked the house, and I loved the boat-house. 
The day I signed the Agreement I wrote to a boat-builder 
and ordered a boat. It is a lovely boat; it cost me eighty 
pounds, ninety, counting the carriage from Oxford. It arrived 
at the door on a nondescript vehicle capable of carrying 
a fire escape; it was unlaced, untied, and found to have suffered 
no damage. Two men in baize aprons bore it reverently through 
the stableyard and across the lawn. It was all I could do not to 
get into it. Step by step I kept pace with them, in an agony lest 
they should drop the lovely, fragile, chestnut-coloured vessel; 
we rounded the bamboos and reached the inlet, the artery to the 
boat house. There they launched it with the softest imaginable 
splash; it hurried into the water as a duck does, and seemed so 
thankful to be in its element. Where the water touched it, the 
wood turned a darker chestnut, and the ripples beneath its 
bows reflected broken tawny lights. The baize aprons were not, 
of course, as excited as I was, but they felt the lustre of the 
occasion, their faces shone, and they whistled a little, as they 
gently backed the darling creature into the boat-house, where it 
lay, quietly heaving, and looking almost sanctified with blue 
and red and orange bars of light playing on it, rainbow-like, from 
those heavenly stained-glass windows. 

"Well, it was rather late, and windy, and I seemed to have all 
time before me; and the next day it rained, and I contented 
myself with visiting the boat-house every hour or so, just to 
make sure. And the day after, in the morning. Miss Chadwick 
(who has moved into a smaller house within striking distance 
of this one) called, and said with an air of great empressement 
that she had been talking to some of my neighbours, and they 
all expressed consternation when they heard I had imported a 
boat. How had they heard? I asked. She replied that such an 
event could not be kept secret, and that somebody had said it 
was the greatest misfortune that had happened to Upton for 
thirty years. 'It is not for me to advise you,' she said, 'but the 



THE BOAT 21 

Strongest feelings have been aroused, and if you persist in usina 
your boat, the consequences may be grave.' 

*'Of course I complained to the agents, but I got very little 
satisfaction from them. They advised me to apply to Mrs. 
Lampard (the local grandee), or the Catchment Board, a rather 
mysterious body whose headquarters are in Bristol where, it is 
said, they dine most lavishly on profits made out of traffic on 
the river. 

*'I do apologise for this outburst, but one of the comforts of 
writing to you is that one need not conceal one's grievances or 
pretend that things are going better than they are. My 
feelings about the boat are utterly disproportionate, I know; 
what does it matter (and in a European war!) whether I go for a 
row or not? And what a comedy, to take the house for the 
boating, and then not to be able to boat ! But of course I shall, 
as soon as I get in touch with Mrs. Lampard." 

Timothy broke off. He flinched from the next part, and Tyro 
perhaps more than the other two would resent being reminded. 

But it would be pusillanimous not to mention the matter, 
and Tyro, if he ever remembered, would scold him less for 
speaking out than for failing to. 

*'By the way, did you get a little thing from me at Christmas? 
a fairly early copy of Swift's 'Conduct of the Allies,' not in the 
least valuable, but I thought you might like to have it with your 
other Swiftiana. Just send me one of those service cards — you 
know, *I have, have not, received your parcel.' Of course a 
letter would be still more welcome, but I know how busy you 
must be." 



22 THE BOAT 



CHAPTER III 

Timothy had bought a small car to take him about the country- 
side in quest of subjects for his Pictures of Britain. The petrol 
restrictions made it impossible for him to go far afield at 
present, but he had applied for an extra allowance in connection 
with his job. Once or twice he went alone, then it occurred to 
him to ask Beatrice and Effie to go with him. He knew they 
liked to go out together, and when the weather got warmer 
he meant to spend the day out, so that they should be able to 
do the same. As it was, they often had to take turns, unless Mrs. 
Burnett could oblige in the kitchen, which she never could be 
sure of doing, she had so many relations in the district who 
needed her help, and other employers more short-handed than 
Timothy. 

Effie, whom Timothy asked first, shook her head mournfully 
and said they were much too busy. There was neither gratitude 
nor disappointment in her voice, but an obvious pleasure in 
saying 'no,' and a suggestion, too, that Timothy might count 
himself lucky that he could take the afternoon off while other 
people had to work. Feeling the justice of this, Timothy 
retreated hastily from the kitchen, an action which was already 
easier for him than entering it, and slipped out through the side 
door into the stableyard, where the frozen snow crunched 
beneath his feet. One of the loose boxes had been converted by 
Miss Chadwick into a rough sort of garage which Timothy 
used for his car. In a neighbouring shed, open to the elements, 
stood another car, a ramshackle affair which had seen much 
hard service, and of which Timothy knew nothing except that it 
was not his. It was his habit to take things for granted, and had 
the shed been occupied by an elephant he would not have 
wondered how it got there. But today something — perhaps it 
was pique at Effie's refusal to accept his offer of a drive — kindled 
his curiosity about the unsightly vehicle, and he called out to 
Wimbush, who happened to be passing, and asked him whose it 
was. 



THE BOAT 23 

Wimbush approached ponderously and laid his hand on the 
car's battered hood, as though he could more easily explain its 
presence if he was physically in touch with it. 

*'It belongs to Mr. Edgell, the Rector's son," he said, ''Miss 
Chadwick let him leave it there, while he went to join up, like." 
He became aware of Timothy's hostility to the car, and added, 
'"Tisn't an ornament, sir, is it?" 

''Well, no," said Timothy. "And I think he might have 
asked me, don't you? After all, I may want to use this shed for 
a guest's car. I'm expecting some guests, before long." Timothy 
was surprised to hear the resentment in his voice. 

"He mightn't have known that Miss Chadwick have let the 
house," remarked Wimbush. "Happen I see him about, I'll 
tell him to take it away. He's got plenty of petrol in his tank ; 
four gallons, I shouldn't be surprised." 

"Oh no," exclaimed Timothy, too much taken aback to 
wonder how Wimbush knew there was so much petrol in the 
car. "You mustn't do that. I only thought he might just have 
asked me. What sort of a fellow is he, Wimbush?" 

"Regular harumscarum he is," said Wimbush, "a proper 
clergyman's son, they all say. Not that I've anything against 
him. We keep out of each other's road. That's always safest, I 
say." 

It was not the first time Timothy had heard Wimbush pro- 
claim his policy of isolation. 

"But I expect you know the Rector?" Timothy pursued. 

An inscrutable look came into Wimbush's red brown eyes. 
"Oh yes, we all know him." 

"Is he ... is he?" Timothy began. 

"Yes, he is," said Wimbush, to whom Timothy's vague 
question had evidently meant something quite definite. "He's 
all that and more, sir. But he's got his faults like the rest of us ; 
he wouldn't be human if he hadn't. Mrs. Purbright, of course, 
she's different." 

"Different in what way?" 

"Well, the money's hers, for one thing." 

But for the moment Timothy w^as more interested in die 
Rector's failings than in his wife's money. 

"What sort of faults?" he asked. 



24 THE BOAT 

"Well, one that isn't really a fault in a man, sir, not like it is 
in a woman, I mean he's got a terrible temper. When anything 
upsets him he goes off alarming, just like you or I might, except 
that he dursn't use bad language. Some of the chaps annoy him 
for the purpose, just to see him get his rag out. But his worst 
fault is that he hasn't got much to say to a working man, not 
like you have, sir, and Mrs. Purbright." 

Timothy did not like having to share this compliment with 
Mrs. Purbright. 'Tm afraid I chatter a great deal," he excused 
himself, insincerely. 

"Oh I wouldn't say that, sir," said the gardener. "Only 
having vegetated abroad in a manner of speaking, you haven't 
quite got the ways of the gentry. But you will. Not but what 
some of them's very nice people. There's Colonel Harbord, 
for instance. He nearly went down on his knees to me to go to 
him. He have a really big garden, more like a park, it is, that 
need two or three men. He's a great fisherman too. He's 
one of them that makes the river what it is. He and Commander 
Bellew, and Sir Watson Stafford at the big house up to Cumber- 
ledge, and several more I could name, only they wouldn't mean 
anything to you, being a stranger, begging your pardon, sir." 

"They're all tenants of Mrs. Lampard, I suppose," said 
Timothy. 

"Bless you yes, sir, as far as the eye can see. All except this 
house, that belong to Miss Chadwick, as it did to her brother 
the judge, before her, and she won't sell it, not for love nor 
money." 

"I'm glad of that," said Timothy. "And all the people who 
have come from outside to live here, are they Mrs. Lampard's 
tenants, too?" 

Wimbush disengaged himself from the car, stood upright and 
shook his head. "You couldn't rightly call them tenants," he 
said earnestly. "I don't know what name to give them, really I 
don't, that wouldn't sound rude. But legally speaking, yes, they 
be tenants of Mrs. Lampard, seeing as how the whole village 
belongs to her. And they pay good money for all those cottages 
that she had dolled up and fancified, you wouldn't believe." 

"I expect there are some nice people among them," said 
Timothy, but he felt priggish defending them. 



THE BOAT 25 

''Don't you be too sure, sir. All I know is they don't mix 
with the gentry, any more than oil mixes with water. I shouldn't 
want to have anything to do with them." 

Sounds came from behind them, the shutting of a door, the 
scraping of shoes on stone, discreet coughs and throat'clearings. 
Timothy turned his head. Standing on the doorstep were 
Beatrice and Effie, dressed for the afternoon; they were looking 
in his direction, and already had the reproachful air of people 
who have been kept waiting. They had changed their minds and 
were coming after all. 

Scarcely had Timothy left the kitchen when the larder door 
opened and Beatrice appeared, belligerence on her brow. 

**Oh, Effie, why did you say not to go with him?" 

**Well, haven't you always said we're not to give way to 
him over every little thing?" 

Beatrice had not expected this argument. She was silent, and 
Effie pressed her advantage. 

''At this rate he'll be thinking he can take us anywhere he 
likes, at any time. It isn't very nice, is it? You don't know what 
he might do." 

Beatrice recovered herself. "Not with me there. I can look 
after you if he starts anything." 

"It might not be me; it might be you." Effie looked out of the 
window. She saw Wimbush talking to Timothy, who looked 
thin and slight beside him. 

"Oh go on with you," said Beatrice. "I dunno what's come 
over you lately. You never seem to want to get out of this hole. 
If it was someone else, I might think you were in love." 

Effie turned away from the window and sat down in a basket 
chair. The image of Wimbush was so vivid in her mind, that 
obscurely she felt it must be reflected in her face. She said 
airily, "What if I was?" 

"You couldn't be," said Beatrice scornfully. "There's not a 
man in the place, except him." 

"It would have to be a him, wouldn't it?" Etfie's tone was 
sarcastic, but the self-betrayal that love demands took the 
stiffening out of her voice. 

Beatrice stared at her. "If I thought it was him, I should kill 



26 THE BOAT 

you and myself, too." 

Like an animal that scents danger, Effie was at once on the 
alert. ''You and your hims! You're a regular hymn-book. But if 
you're going to get all worked up about it, I don't mind, I'll go. 
Anything to keep you quiet. But don't blame me if he takes it as 
an encouragement," 

"Good!" Timothy called out as soon as he saw them. He 
liked the idea of company, and was happy to think that the 
maids wanted to come. ''Wait a moment, and I'll have the 
car out." 

This needed a certain amount of manoeuvring. Wimbush 
stood in front, rather in the attitude of 'he' in Blind Man's 
Buff, encouraging, advising, warning. Timothy was afraid he 
might run over him. At last the car was brought to where the 
maids stood. With an exaggerated flourish Wimbush held the 
door open for them. Beatrice swept past him without a look ; 
Effie, whether by accident or design, stumbled, but deftly eluded 
his outstretched hand. Settling themselves delicately, they took 
the rug Timothy offered and pulled it round themselves. "All 
right behind?" he asked. The car started with the jerk which 
Timothy had never been able to eradicate. Blowing on his 
hands, Wimbush watched them go. 

Timothy returned in a contented state of mind, but sadly 
short of petrol. On the outward journey he had made a detour 
to show Beatrice and EfHe the ruins of Merrivale Abbey, a 
Cistercian building romantically situated on the banks of 
another river. This would be killing two birds, for the abbey was 
certainly one of Britain's pictures, and many writers had tried 
their hands at describing it. Few had seen it under snow, how^ 
ever, and none had the advantage of having Beatrice and Effie 
with them. This was the Age of the Common Man. Timothy 
did not mean for a moment to suggest that Effie and Beatrice 
were common women ; but he thought it would strengthen his 
hand if he could embody in his article the appeal the abbey 
made to untutored but beauty-loving minds. Later, he realized 
that their comments would have to be carefully edited; but 
Timothy had no scruples on that score. Merrivale Abbey, ruin 



THE BOAT 27 

though it was, was one of the things we were fighting for. 

Musing thus, he caught sight of the dilapidated hood of the 
intruder: seen in the mingUng moonUght and snowHght, it had 
a ghostly quaUty. His animosity towards it had completely 
melted : but an idea came to him : why should he not use some 
of the petrol, which Wimbush said was interned within it, for 
his own car? Two gallons would take him seventy miles, and 
reveal who could tell how many pictures of Britain, far beyond 
the reach of Wimbush's bicycle which he sometimes borrowed 
for these necessary excursions. A letter to the Rector, who had 
not yet called on him, would be a friendly gesture, and perhaps, 
too, a milestone on the road to Colonel Harbord, Captain 
Sturrock, Commander Bellew and the rest, even a slight 
advance in the direction of Mrs. Lampard. Already Timothy 
saw himself in the boat, gliding gently along the forbidden 
river, always with a watchful eye to the trout who were 
misconducting themselves (but quite laudably) in its depths. 
The scenery along the banks (unimaginable, for the road seldom 
approached the river, and, except at the village bridge, only 
crossed it at points two miles above and below Upton) would 
be worth at least one picture of Britain : but that was not the 
point; the point was the sum of psycho-physical sensations 
that Timothy would capture with the first free stroke of his free 
sculls on the free water: the release, the renewal. 

He told the Rector how lucky he felt himself to have found 
a house in such a beautiful place as Upton ; how much he looked 
forward to living there; that his non-appearance at church, 
which he greatly deplored, was only the result of the difficulties, 
in wartime, of getting settled into a house. He looked forward 
to making many friends, among them the Rector, his wife, and 
his son, whose car he was particularly glad to be able to accom- 
modate in his garage. The car would not be in the way, not in the 
least, he hoped the Rector's son would feel free to leave it 
there as long as he liked. But he had just one request to make; 
as the Rector's son was not, and would not be using the car, 
might Timothy take for himself by a simple operation, known, 
he believed, as siphoning, some of the petrol that was in it? 
If he might, not only would the car be a delightful addition to 
his other furnishings, but a very useful one as well. 



28 THE BOAT 

The letter was in time to catch the post. 

The next morning announced a thaw. Water lay in blue-black 
hollows in the snow, the river had risen and changed its colour 
to a dirty yellow. The boat was a foot or more higher than 
when he last visited it, and the rainbow lights from the stained 
glass touched it in new places. Timothy could not help feeling 
he was in church, even to the point of tip-toeing about with 
subdued movements; and his sense of isolation from the 
outside world, of being alone with a presence that commanded 
awe, was absolute. Save for the whispering chuckle of the water 
there was no sound ; save for the almost imperceptible rise and 
fall of the boat, no movement. Timothy's senses were stilled in 
a kind of ritual. He opened the door quietly and went out. 

What had Beatrice and Efiie really said ? They had reacted to 
the ruins in a strictly professional spirit. The church itself left 
them untouched; their imaginations did not conceive the idea 
of worshipping there. But the monastic buildings, the use of 
which Timothy explained as well as he could with the help of 
small, leaden notices planted by the Board of Works, these 
they found both interesting and undesirable. Fancy cooking, 
sleeping, washing, feeding in these old places ! No comfort, no 
convenience anywhere. All stone floors and nowhere to sit 
down. And the cold ! The snow which thickly covered the ruins 
lent weight to this objection; Timothy could not convince his 
pupils, and could hardly convince himself, that the snow would 
have been out of doors, not in. 

Triumphantly Timothy was able to assure them that the 
monks had grumbled. In contemporary records their complaints 
were still preserved. Not of the cold, strangely enough, but of 
the heat; of the sunlight striking on the water, which, they 
declared, hurt their eyes; of the soldiers in the border castle 
of Chepstow, who came over and pinched their livestock, and 
with menaces demanded food and shelter; of the better con^ 
ditions prevailing at the abbeys of Tintern and Much Wenlock. 
At these evidences of imperfection, Beatrice and Effie pricked 
up their ears; it was clear that they liked the idea of Merrivale 
Abbey seething with discontent better than when they thought 
of it as a haunt of ancient peace. To the great natural beauty 



I 



THE BOAT 29 

of its situation, lassooed in a loop of the river, with the pinkish 
cliffs on one side, and on the other, snow-sprinkled woods 
sloping upwards with an effect of infinite depth and distance 
towards the mountains of Wales, they seemed indifferent; 
but as they turned away Effie remarked that she wished they 
could see the place on the movies — it would look so pretty 
there. 

They were getting into the car when Timothy looked back 
and saw what the monks complained of: a shaft of light striking 
the river with almost unbearable brightness. Half blinded, he 
called to the maids to come and look ; but by the time they had 
got out, the dazzling ray was gone, and he was left wondering 
if he had seen it or imagined it. 

'Damaris and Chloe,' Timothy wrote, 'rightly felt that the 
domestic arrangements of the abbey compared unfavourably 
with those we enjoy in England today. In England today we 
have both sorts of luxury; the thousand material comforts 
that surround us from bedtime to bedtime, and the incom- 
parable beauty, so refreshing to the spirit, which the monks of 
Merrivale bequeathed to us — a beauty, one should add, perhaps 
more poignant because more elegiac than that of the monas- 
teries of Italy, where Time, kept captive by the Catholic Church , 
is not allowed to show his majesty. Yet the bare ruined quire 
of Merrivale is not dead; Damaris and Chloe, tvpical figures 
of today, stepping delicately among the snow-covered ruins, 
exclaiming with delight at what they saw, were quick to 
appreciate the humanity and humour of the old chronicler, 
Walterus ex-Oxoniensis, with his tales of eye-strain from the 
sunlight on the river, and the exactions of the soldiery, foraging 
or, as we should say, scrounging, in the abbey ponds and 
pastures. 

*A hint from Chloe that scenes like Merrivale would merit 
the attention of the film-producer seemed to me a happy 
one, and I hope it will be taken up. But we must remember 
if we see this lovely relic flashed upon the screen, that its home 
is not in a hot and possibly rather stuffy room in London or 
New York or Paris, with no other context than the backs o{ 
innumerable heads wreathed in tobacco-smoke, a spot-lit 
figure at an organ, and illuminated notices showing the audience 



30 ' THE BOAT 

where they can get out; its home is not in these cosmopolitan 
and possibly ephemeral surroundings, contrived to give 
recreation to tired workers of our industrial age, but in the 
depths of the English countryside, with centuries of English 
history flowing over it; and round it, audible to an ear attuned, 
the devout whisperings of the Age of Faith. These imponder^ 
ables can only be appreciated in situ, as they were by Damaris 
and Chloe, those intelligent and decorative nymphs; they 
belong to no Odeon or Plaza or Rialto, but to one valley of one 
county of England, which has been free for nearly nine hundred 
years, and which we mean to keep so. 

'I have been betrayed into attempted eloquence. Let me 
finish on a lighter note, the note of comedy with which our 
visit also finished, reminding us that the valley we were leaving 
was not only beautiful but merry — merry as Merry England. 
Turning to me with mischief in her eyes, Chloe said — ' 

What could Efiie have said? Timothy tried to think; his 
readers expected a light touch from him, and he must not 
disappoint them. He tried an experimental smile, for the mind 
is sometimes pleased to take a hint from the body, and as it was 
broadening into an idiotic grin the door opened to admit as 
much of Effie as, on certain occasions, she was prepared to 
show. ''The Reverend to see you, sir," she said. 

"The Reverend?" 

Effie compressed her lips to imply that it was not her fault if 
the visitor had an unusual name; also, that he was close behind 
her. And as she grudgingly opened the door wider he walked 
in. Timothy wiped the humour-engendering smile off his face, 
substituted another more suitable, and lose. 

''How do you do, Mr. Purbright? This is a pleasure." 

"How do you do." 

The Rector's smile flickered and went. He was a tall, ascetic- 
looking man, whose swarthy complexion seemed to cast a 
permanent shadow on his face. 

"You find me writing an article," said Timothy, immediately 
feeling called on to justify himself. "But I can't tell you how 
glad I am to be interrupted." 

"I am sorry if I have disturbed you," said the Rector, ignoring 
the second part of Timothy's remark. "But I got your letter, 



THE BOAT 31 

and I felt I must come round at once." 

**Do sit down. You mean my letter about the car?" 

**Yes. I hope I am in time." 

**Of course," said Timothy. "There was no hurry at all. I'm 
glad you came, but I'm sorry you hurried." 

The Rector's face relaxed somewhat. ''It was to save you from 
committing a serious imprudence," he said. 

"Imprudence?" echoed Timothy. 

"You did not know that the expedient you suggested, of — 
er — siphoning the petrol from my son's car into your own was 
forbidden by law?" 

Timothy was taken aback. He did know that to transfer petrol 
from one car to another was illegal ; but he had heard of many 
people doing it, and supposed that the law winked at it. 

"You might have got us all three into serious trouble," said 
the Rector impressively. "I could not possibly be party to such 
a transaction. People have been sent to prison for less." 

Timothy's sense of guilt now became tinged with irritation. 
The Rector was sitting in front of him for all the world like a 
policeman. "I should not have dreamed," he said, a little 
stiffly, "of taking the petrol without first asking your per* 
mission. That was why I wrote. Your son left his car in my shed 
without my leave or knowledge. I could charge him rent for it, 
I suppose. I should not, of course, do that; but it did not seem 
unreasonable, in the circumstances, to ask him for a quid pro 
quo J* 

The Rector's dark face turned darker. "I am sorry you take 
my friendly advice in that spirit, Mr. Casson," he said. "Edgell 
is now with the R.A.F. He kept his car here at the invitation 
of Miss Chadwick, as we have no room for it at the Rectory. 
In his haste to answer his country's call he forgot to take the 
car away. A good many of us are rather busy with war work, 
Mr. Casson. I think you will agree that an oversight, which I 
sincerely regret, is hardly to be balanced against a deliberate 
infringement of the law." He rose. "If you will allow me, I will 
take the car away with me now." 

Timothy felt that matters must not be left like this. 

"Oh please, Mr. Purbright," he said, rising in his turn and 
smiling into Mr. Purbright's unsmiling face, "don't let us mis- 



32 THE BOAT 

understand each other. Of course take the car if you want to, 
but I shall be most happy to keep it here. BeUeve me, I had no 
wish to do anything that might embarrass you." 

A struggle appeared in the Rector's face, as though he was 
reminding himself of the duty of Christian forbearance. The 
movement of his moods seemed to demand a corresponding 
movement in his blood-stream. But presently his brow cleared 
and he said, 

''That is kind of you. I accept your offer gratefully, and I 
thank you, too, on Edgell's behalf." He drew a long breath, a 
Cease Fire over the battlefield, and looked round him, a trifle 
dazed. Timothy at once came to his side, and together they 
moved towards the window. 

*'A very nice place you have here," said the Rector. ''In 
Judge Chadwick's time it was the scene of much simple 
hospitality. His sister, Clara, could not keep up the gracious 
tradition. Straitened means, I fear. You have met her, of 
course?" 

Timothy said he had. 

"Bookish, very, a remarkably well-read woman, in fact. You 
will enjoy many a literary crack with her, I trust. Not a bad 
woman of business, either. You will find that most of your 
neighbours are not great readers. Fishing is their main occupa- 
tion — perhaps I should not say that, but certainly their main 
recreation. There are some very good fellows among them, very. 
Colonel Harbord, a great gentleman; Captain Sturrock, one of 
the best. Commander Bellew, a little brusque . . . naval, you 
know, but delightful when you know him. Watson Stafford — 
he likes us to forget the 'Sir' — a self-made man — he would be 
the first to admit it — but wonderfully generous, wonderfully. 
And, of course, there is Mrs. Lampard." 

Timothy said he had met Mrs. Lampard, many years ago. 

"You met Mrs. Lampard?" asked the Rector in surprise. 

*'Yes, in Italy," said Timothy. 

*'Oh, in Italy," said the Rector, as if to meet Mrs. Lampard in 
Italy was not at all the same thing. 

"She came to luncheon with me once or twice," said Timothy 
carelessly. "She was very handsome then; what is she like 
now?" 



THE BOAT 33 

"A princess," said Mr. Purbright earnestly. ''A Tudor 
princess. If you ask me which Tudor princess, I could not tell 
you, my history is rather rusty, I'm afraid. But she could have 
held her own at the court of Henry VIII ; she would have kept 
her head, ha-ha." Timothy, too, appreciated the joke. *'It is 
some time since we were bidden to Welshgate, and the war 
takes toll even of such an establishment as hers, but the enter- 
tainment was regal." 

*'Is she a good landlord?" Timothy asked, fully expecting an 
overwhelmingly affirmative answer, and was surprised to see a 
shadow cross the Rector's face. 

**I have not always seen eye to eye with her," he said. ''In 
that and . . . and in other matters. But it is greatly thanks to 
her that our river has won and kept its nation- wide reputation 
as a fly-fisherman's paradise. Are you a fisherman, Mr. 
Casson?" 

Something in the Rector's manner made Timothy feel that he 
already knew the answer to his question ; but he was so pleased 
with himself for having turned away Mr. Purbright's wrath, and 
so anxious to enlist him as an ally in the battle for the boat 
that he threw caution to the winds, and explained exactly how 
matters stood. 

"Do come out and see the boat," he wound up. "I have called 
it the Argo, provisionally, you know — suggesting a quest. To 
have called it the Mayflower might have been provocative, don't 
you think, challenging comparison with the mayfly. You will 
see how little water it draws — six inches at the most — and 
though I am far from being a polished oarsman, I am careful 
not to put the sculls in deep. I cannot believe that the progress 
of my boat would disturb the daily routine of a minnow!" 

Carried away by his fancy, Timothy failed to see what effect 
it was having on his visitor. Alas, alas, Mr. Purbright's face had 
clouded again, not so much with anger, it seemed to Timothy, 
as with embarrassment. 

"Quite, quite," he was saying, "And I sympathise with your 
devotion to what is in ordinary circumstances a healthy and an 
unexceptionable pastime. But I am afraid that you will tind — " 
He broke off, mis-liking what he was going to say. "The 
fishing-rights here are very jealously preserved, and I do not 



34 THE BOAT 

think my parishioners would tolerate any infringement of them. 
One's duty to one's neighbour, Mr. Casson, one's duty to one's 
neighbour. This is a gentleman's river, not a public thorough- 
fare like the Thames with its rowing-boats and gramophones. 
If I were you I should not try to insist — " He lifted an appealing 
eyebrow to Timothy, whose face fell. 

''You see, I came here," said Timothy, ''largely for the sake 
of the rowing, and bought the boat. It's a very nice one. ... I 
have written to Mrs. Lampard." 

**What did she say?" asked the Rector quickly. 

Timothy said he was still awaiting her reply. 

*'I hope it may be favourable," said the Rector doubtfully. 
**That would certainly clarify the situation. A ruling from her, 
though of course she has others to consider besides herself . . . 
would carry much weight. You have . friends in the locality, 
Mr. Casson?" 

Timothy admitted that he had not. 

*T ought to tell you," said the Rector, "that your . . . your 
attitude to the river may cause a slight barrier, a faint feeling of 
distrust. ... I myself take great pleasure in walking." 

Timothy said he also liked walking. 

"What about a dog?" said the Rector suddenly. "A good dog, 
preferably of a sporting type, makes an excellent companion, 
and gives confidence, if you know what I mean : a man with a 
dog at his heel soon seems part of the place. A dumb animal, 
you know, quickly finds its way into people's hearts." 

"H'm," said Timothy. 

"Yes, they stop and — er— pat him, and after that it's a short 
step to breaking the ice with his owner. I'm sure there would be 
no objection to you having a dog, as long as you kept him away 
from the coverts." 

"I'm afraid I'm not very fond of dogs," said Timothy as 
politely as he could. 

"Not fond of dogs?" The Rector shot him a quick glance and 
sighed. "Well, well, it was just an idea, in case you should be 
feeling lonely. By the way, you must come and see us : my wife 
will ring you up." 

Timothy said how delighted he would be. 

"And thanks for your hospitality to Edgell's car. I'm afraid 



THE BOAT 35 

I was a little hasty, but the law is the law, isn't it, and I didn't 
want you to start off with the wrong foot, to use an expression 
of my son's. I hope I have not spoken too plainly, or what he 
would call 'out of turn.' We older people will have to learn 
a new vocabulary. And now I must get along and leave you to 
your writing." 

Master of the situation, he turned from the window. 
Timothy, following him, was moved to say : 

"You'll have a drink before you go? A glass of sherry, or 
some gin and vermouth?" 

The bottle and glasses were standing on a tray in full view, 
and it would have been useless to ignore them. Besides, Timothy 
much preferred to drink in company. 

"No, thank you," said the Rector, eyeing the bottles dis- 
trustfully. "I only drink to celebrate an occasion. But I am 
distressed by the amount of drinking that goes on, or has begun 
to go on, here, in a little village like this. I am afraid that some 
of our Midland friends have set us a bad example." 

Starved of gossip, Timothy pricked up his ears. 

"Rather well-tO'do people, some of them, I gather, with 
little feeling for the country or understanding of country life, 
regular townees, if that's not a harsh word. The village doesn't 
like them very much, but they bring plenty of custom to the 
Fisherman's Arms, and do not always come out, or indeed go in, 
as sober as they should. You may have noticed some of the 
women's clothes, perhaps: flashy, not to say fast. And their 
relationships seem, well, irregular. A regrettable element. As 
my wife says, we must make the best of them, but I'm afraid it 
will be a poor best. I was one of those who deplored Mrs. 
Lampard's action in doing up those rather dilapidated but 
picturesque and serviceable cottages for the week-end use of 
prosperous tradesmen, leaving more than one excellent family 
of farm-labourers homeless. But a la guerre comme a la guerre, 
and we must all make sacrifices. Good-day, Mr. Casson." 

Timothy saw the Rector to the door and then, fortified by a 
glass of sherry, went back to his work. 

'Turning to me with mischief in her eyes, Chloe said. . . .' 



B» 



36 THE BOAT 



CHAPTER IV 

''I CANNOT understand," wrote Tyro, "why you did not jog 
my memory sooner about 'The Conduct of the AUies.' It was 
really rather careless of you, dear Timothy — such a valuable 
book and far too good for me. You know how I detest posses^ 
sions, but at the same time I should have felt really upset if a 
gift from you had gone irrecoverably astray, as it well might 
have, after such a long lapse of time. Yes, I got it, in the throes 
of moving to this dreadful place, and I hope I shan't sound un- 
gracious if I say that the fear of losing it was not the least of my 
anxieties. I have always forbidden you to give me presents, 
which, if unwanted, are a nuisance, and if treasured (as I fear 
this may be) only make the idea of death more distasteful ; all 
the same, I must take this opportunity of thanking you, even 
while I implore you not to do it again. 

**You have done well to bury yourself in the country and 
hold yourself aloof from this disgraceful conflict (for such, I 
suppose, was your intention). If I had had the means I 
should have done the same. Ever since 1914 I have loathed the 
spectacle of humanity in collective action ; they are homicides to 
a man, and what is nationalism, or patriotism, or whatever you 
choose to call it, but an excuse for legalising and sanctifying the 
homicidal impulse? The State is man's greatest enemy, as I have 
often told you, my dear Timothy; and the State disguised as 
'my country' is the most hateful form of the disease. What an 
experience it was, all through Munich, to see one's warlike 
friends straining at their leashes, feeling 'smirched' (their 
favourite word) because the world was not plunged in tears and 
blood ! And even now I see a daily disappointment in the faces 
round me because the war refuses to develop, and give them 
their vampire feast. 

''Well, here I am, not liking it, of course, but earning my 
keep and glad in a way of the chance to have my convictions 
about the human race so amply confirmed. (You, in your little 
rural paradise, cannot have the faintest idea what 'they' are 



THE BOAT 37 

really like). Sunday is the great day, of course, in which all the 
most popular newspapers, thrusting the war into the smallest 
headlines that decency allows, regale their five million readers 
with all the instances of murder, robbery, rape, incest, burglary, 
and blackmail that they have been able to collect. You would 
think, wouldn't you, that in this crisis of humanity's existence, 
when all our lives are in jeopardy, when the world has had such 
a crop of atrocity stories to delight it as it has never known 
before, that the craving for this special form of spiritual vitamins 
would have been somehow satisfied? 

'*Well, re-reading your letter I see that you have not al^ 
together escaped the universal passion for swindling, graft, 
double-crossing, etc. You won't be able to store your apples, 
you may have to keep your house on for five years, whether you 
like it or not, you live among factions who clearly hate each 
other's guts, and you are not allowed to row the boat which was 
your strange reason for wanting to live at Upton-on'Swirrel. 
Just as I hope the war will fizzle out, so I also hope that all these 
gloomy predictions will be falsified; that your apple-room 
will be stinking with apples; that you will sublet the Old 
Rectory for an enormous sum the moment you tire of it, 
that you will be the toast of the entire neighbourhood, and 
float up and down the Swirrel in your barge or whatever it 
is, like Cleopatra or King Arthur. But if things shouldn't turn 
out like that, and your enemies get the upper hand, please, 
please^ dear Timothy, don't speak of the joke or the comedy of 
it all. Don't pretend that it's your fault, don't pretend that 
you're enjoying it, and don't say anything about poor suffering 
human nature. If you do, you will forfeit my friendship. The 
brutes know perfectly well what they are about, their sufferings 
are entirely their own fault, and if they decide to down you, 
they will not be put off by the smile on your face, or your 
wish to see them as an aspect of comedy. 

^'I do congratulate you on having found such satisfactory 
servants — I congratulate them, too. I remember, from the days 
when I had servants, what a difference they made to one's life. 
I never had any good ones, but I can see they would have made a 
difference, too. Mine lied and stole, cheated and generally 
misused me. And you know what I can be like : I was an angel 



38 THE BOAT 

to them. Oh how much better I have always behaved than 
99 per cent, of the people round me! This is a thing, dear 
Timothy, one should never forget, or let anyone else forget, on 
pain of being party to the Great Conspiracy, made fashionable 
by Rousseau and Dostoievsky, though no doubt existing 
long before their time — which consists in promising to say you 
are no better than other people on condition that other people 
will say they are no better than you. The Immoral Contract, 
one might call it, for it makes socially acceptable only the 
lowest standard of value and behaviour. I must not profess a 
respect for human life because to do so would put Crippen out 
of countenance. You must not say you pay your bills, because 
to do so would hurt the feelings of Whittaker Wright. I know 
hardly anyone who would not rather boast of a bad action than 
a good one, and glorify the Devil rather than God. Prig is a 
word invented by the Devil to discredit virtue; next to being 
called a bore, it is this charge that the educated modern man 
fears the most. But I glory in both, as you must have noticed, 
and hope I always shall. 

**As to coming to stay with you — you know how I hate 
visits and the insincerity that always attends them — the mean- 
ingless conversations that politeness requires, drained of every 
thought or expression that could possibly give offence to a 
bundle of noodles whose one idea is how they can use their 
neighbours' collective stupidity, codified and called con- 
ventional morality, to cheat them. Oh, what I have suffered 
at those gatherings — the effort not to tell my fellow'guests their 
glaring faults, not to demonstrate to them that they have 
enough malice and meanness among them to be the motive- 
power of a world war! And all because I will not, I will not, 
Timothy, adopt a cynical attitude, perhaps the truest of 
simplifications, but the most boring and the most despairing. 
What can life be like to a cynic ? Nightly I pray to be defended 
from cynicism. But with you I know that I can always speak my 
mind, and that you will not expect from me a greasy Collins, 
wallowing in falsehood and saying that what was really, a 
purgatory has been the happiest time of my life. So that if the 
Ofiice should ever relax its stranglehold (it has promised to, 
one week-end in six months, but what are promises worth?)— 



THE BOAT 39 

I will join you in your funkhole and together we will curse the 
human race and the misery it has brought on itself, and us. 
The Fall, the Fall, how often it has been repeated, and each 
time Eve discovers a new attraction in the apple, and Adam 
snatches at the much-chewed fruit. 

''Well, thank you again for your delightful present — Swift, 
my favourite author, 'The Conduct of the Allies' my favourite 
theme. I shall enjoy re-reading it, and then perhaps put it in the 
Bank for safety. You must never give me another present, but 
if you do, please make sure that it reaches me. You are a good 
friend, Timothy, but tidiness, promptness, efficiency and in a 
sense, consideration for other people were never among your 
virtues. 

Love from your affectionate 

Tyro. 

P.S. — Don't imagine from this that I have any time for letter* 
writing — I haven't." 

It took Timothy some time to read this characteristic 
effusion, closely typewritten on large sheets of paper so much 
resembling toilet paper that one could scarcely tell the 
difference. He was familiar with Tyro's misanthropy, and 
knew that it was genuine in spite of the froth of exaggeration 
and overstatement that poured off it, like steam and bubbles 
from a boiling saucepan. As always, it exhilarated and com- 
forted him. He, too, sometimes had doubts as to the general 
good faith of human beings, and was accustomed to still them 
by precisely those mental subterfuges that Tyro had de- 
nounced. Who am I to sit in judgment on other people? 
I am the worst of sinners, he would think; or, how funny it all 
is, what a joke, what a comedy. Tyro's tirades, by painting the 
picture so much blacker than, even in moods of despondency, 
it had ever appeared to Timothy, reconciled him to the human 
countenance as it rose, moonlike and enigmatic, above the 
garden wall of the Old Rectory. How much happier he was, and 
would always be, than the hunted fugitive of Tyro's fancy, 
scuttling to and fro like a beetle on a board, pursued by the 
malice, the indefeasible moral turpitude of his fellows, his only 
solace his conviction that he was right and 'they' were wrong! 



40 THE BOAT 

By reaction, Tyro's letter restored him to the world where 
morality was only one of many issues, and had not devoured the 
lot, like a swollen modern state, jealous of every independent 
being within its borders. 

Relieved of the strain of the moral outlook, inoculated 
against pessimism, Timothy remembered, with an anticipatory 
thrill, the world about him, hibernating, winter^bound. What 
leaves, what buds, what blossoms, would it soon put forth? 

The post had come betimes today: there were two more 
letters with his early morning tea. The long pale blue envelope 
with Magda's handwriting on it exuded a faint perfume, 
aromatic rather than sweet, the herald of her presence: she 
never came unannounced, or without considering the effect 
she was to make on all one's senses. **One'Fifty'Five Park 
Lane," ran the address, in cursive almost copper^plate lettering, 
white on the blue ground, like an aerial message printed on the 
sky. "Timothy dear," the scent began to enfold him, 

"I hate not having written to thank you, it's so Falangist, 
somehow, to forget to thank people. In Russia they have a 
habit, Lurya Libidinsky tells me, of always sending with a 
present a picture postcard of one's favourite Commissar, 
addressed to the donor, and saying, 'Nicolay Polaiechev (or 
whoever it may be) and I thank you for your gift.' So no present 
ever goes unacknowledged. I find that charming, and it quite 
takes away the sting of the personal, the eternal anti-social 
arrogance of the I. So Litvinov and I gratefully thank you for 
that darling bottle of scent, and try to forget that it comes from 
Abyssinia-torturing Italy. 

**I never liked Italy after Fascism came in, and never under- 
stood how you could live there. It was different on the Lido, 
of course; the de Hautevilles had their French friends, and one 
hardly spoke to an Italian. Those black shirts made them look 
so swarthy, and I never could believe they were properly 
washed. And the Roman salute is so unbecoming to a rather 
dumpy body and short legs, which most of them have. 

''Valentine de Hauteville was a friend of yours, wasn't she? 
She said something about the Spanish War which offended me, 
and I never saw her again. By the way, are you quite sound, 
Timothy? Somebody told me something you had said, that 



THE BOAT 41 

there had been cruelty on both sides. That may be true, though 
I deny it: the point is, it's not the thing to say, and I shall try 
to think you didn't. As long as I live, there will only be one 
War for me — the Spanish War. People tell me I'm not sane on 
the subject, and I don't want to be, if sanity means listening to 
arguments on the other side. 

**As to this war, well, we are in it, I suppose, but I don't feel 
happy about it. It's phoney, for one thing. And I'm not at all 
sure that it isn't capitalist and imperialist as well — the old 
business, a secret understanding with Germany aimed at 
Russia and the workers. Otherwise, why hasn't Russia come in 
with us? Of course, you couldn't expect her to, after being 
snubbed at Munich ; if we had fought then, the war would be 
over now. But both Tanya and Manya Benediktov (comrades 
from the Curzon Street Cell — they wouldn't interest you, but 
they are people who know what's going on underneath) say that 
Russia really hates Germany and only made the Pact for self- 
protection and to secure her just rights in Poland, Finland, 
Estonia, Livonia, Lithuania, Courland, etc., etc. And Lurya and 
Furya say the same. Who cares about the Poles? They look alike, 
and are all the same height and say the same things in the same 
boring voices and I can never forgive the Finns for stabbing 
Russia in the back. 

*'But I'm afraid you're not really interested in politics. I met 
your friend, Tyrone MacAdam, the other day, looking par- 
ticularly dirty and unkempt, and was shocked by something 
he said to me about human beings having only themselves to 
blame for wars, etc. So moralistic and seventeenth century. 
To talk like that about human beings is sheer blasphemy. 
Can't he understand that it's the system that's wrong, and that 
all that's wanted is to get rid of capitalism? — and capitalists, 
as they have in the U.S.S.R. ? I called a taxi and drove off. 

**So don't worry because you're not taking an active part in a 
war to preserve capitalism. I work at the M. of A. simply for 
something to do that isn't taking bread out of the workers' 
mouths, as I should do if I let myself be directed down a coal 
mine. I don't like the thought of your house, a Victorian rec- 
tory is my idea of hell, and you will have a lot of stuffy neigh- 
bours who will insist on calling on you. That sort of scenery 



42 THE BOAT 

isn't the kind I care for either, I'm afraid, it's too fussy; I long 
for featureless plains and a wide sky, and men with broad strong 
faces raising angry fists — anything else, including this war, is 
rather like play-acting to me. And are you sure your boat is 
not a form of escapism? That's what's worrying me. Escapism is 
deviation Number One in our code, the one thing a comrade 
cannot forgive another. Lurya says she never eats a mouthful of 
caviare without a sense of purpose — to advance the cause of 
communism, and Nastya would give up vodka tomorrow if it 
didn't make her feel in line. 

"I don't like women, as you know, but I make an exception 
for those two; they know how to dress, which is more than 
some of the male comrades do. The women in the office are 
frightful; no style, no makc'Up, no conversation. God, how 
they bore me ! I should die if I hadn't this little place to come to 
in the evenings, and the Cell where at least they talk sense. 

*'So a week-end with you would be pure bliss, as we used to 
say. I'm not sure I like the idea of servants in a private house; 
in a flat it's different, they're not so oppressed by the sense of 
private ownership. I expect you spoil yours, Timothy, it's the 
last flicker of bourgeois conscience, trying to put off the 
inevitable. Of course, they see through it, and despise you. A 
personal maid is different, of course. Even in Russia an officer 
is allowed a batman. One puts one's personal efficiency at the 
service of the Party, and anything that sharpens the speat'head 
of revolution is permissible and even laudable. I hope you won't 
mind if I bring Nastya, though I must warn you that the 
country makes her laugh, she finds it so reactionary. She laughs 
a good deal at English servants, too, she finds them so funny, 
but she has perfect manners, of course, all Russians have. She 
laughs at the oddest things which you might not think amusing. 
I didn't, at first, but now when she laughs, I laugh, too, it is such 
a release to abandon oneself wholeheartedly to a proletarian 
impulse. One's whole being acts, and with the current of 
humanity, not against it. Nastya's laughter isn't anti-social, 
as yours (and mine) so often is : she laughs because she has tuned 
in to humanity's wave-length. 

*'A11 the same, I am bored — bored with myself, bored with 
my colleagues in the M. of A., bored with the war. I go into a 



THE BOAT 43 

nursing home to-morrow for a week or two. 

Best love, 

Magda." 

Timothy looked up, puzzled and disturbed. Magda's political 
phase was a new departure. Before the Spanish War she had 
known nothing about politics, and cared nothing. Gardening, 
music, the ballet, bridge, poker, had successively absorbed her. 
It was true that she seldom entertained two interests at the 
same time, and when one was in the ascendant she was apt to 
belittle the others; but certain things were constant: her 
liability to boredom, her feeling for the arts, her passion for 
dress, her absorption in the lover of the moment, and her 
serious affection for a few friends, of whom Timothy was one. 
Magda never changes, they proudly and fondly said. But 
Magda had changed. The personality in the letter had hardened 
and shrunk. Magda had always been sceptical about the value 
of a sense of humour; resting on a pleased recognition of 
inVperfection, humour did not accord with the standard of 
aesthetic perfection she aimed at. There was nothing funny in 
being badly dressed, or in playing the wrong card, or singing the 
wrong note, or in dancing or doing anything badly : such weak- 
nesses were just mistakes, to be dismissed with a grimace and a 
shrug. She had a sense of humour, and one that was all the more 
effective because it was forced out of her. Now she had stifled it, 
and built round herself a barricade almost forbidding in its 
exclusiveness. The barrier had always been there, hedging her 
about, making her more precious : but Timothy had always felt 
he was on the right side of it. Now he was not so sure. 

To enjoy things, that is what endears. Magda's scornful 
impatience with the things she did not like had lent a fiery 
zest to her enjoyment of those she did. Her intolerance had 
been a bond, a private key to the central fountain of her 
enjoyment; by excluding, it enriched. Now, it seemed to 
Timothy, she was living on her exclusiveness, which she called 
comprehensiveness, and trying to enjoy the very act of dis- 
liking, for the sake of the stimulus it gave her ; all she could do 
for a friend, for Timothy, was to invite him to dislike some- 
thing, indeed to command him, for it was clear she would 



44 THE BOAT 

tolerate no disagreement. Cosmetics and politics; those were 
now her gods. And this expensive perfume, which always 
seemed to double his income, was their incense. Timothy 
sniffed it luxuriously and sighed. 

He hoped the third letter would be from Esther, announcing 
the arrival of the vacuum flask, and drawing him into the 
complex system of her multitudinous family life, but the hand- 
writing was unknown to him. Round and guileless, covering 
half the envelope, it inspired confidence, and he opened the 
letter at once. 

Dear Mr. Casson, 

My husband so much enjoyed his little talk with you, and 
I am very anxious to make your acquaintance. We think it so 
generous of you to say you would keep Edgell's car; he will be 
here himself, we hope, in a few days' time to thank you per- 
sonally. He is a dear boy, but rather scatter-brained, I'm afraid. 
Meanwhile could you possibly drink a glass of sherry with us 
on Saturday of next week, and I will ask some friends from the 
neighbourhood whom I think you would like to meet, and who 
I am sure would like to meet you. There is just a chance that 
Edgell may be here! Hoping to have the pleasure of seeing 
you about six o'clock, 

Yours sincerely, 

VOLUMNIA PURBRIGHT. 

The sun poured in, the motes danced, the world glittered 
through his window, rejoicing in the thaw. A radical change of 
outlook, a complete spiritual revolution, took place in Timothy. 
Now he would meet them all — Colonel Harbord, Captain 
Sturrock, Commander Bellew and the rest, 'My dear fellow,' 
they chorused, 'of course we have no objection to your rowing 
on the river. It will keep the trout in training, dodging your 
nice little skiff. And by the way, our gardens, too, go down to 
the river, so any time you're passing just step ashore and have a 
drink or a cup of tea with us. No, we mean it! We shall be 
extremely disappointed if you don't.' 

His breakfast scarcely swallowed, Timothy sped to his 
writing-table, which seemed to have lost its air of yielding 



THE BOAT 45 

unwillingly to his thoughts, and wrote to Mrs. Pur bright a 
thoroughly fulsome letter of acceptance. Saturday would be a 
particularly convenient day for him. It was the day in the week 
when, having finished one article, he had not begun to worry 
about the next. He was overjoyed at the thought of meeting 
Mrs. Purbright, of whom he had heard, if he might say so, 
the most enthusiastic accounts, as he had of her son, who 
seemed to be especially beloved in the village. And he wel- 
comed, more warmly than he could say, the privilege of 
meeting his neighbours. Looking forward enormously to these 
pleasures, he was hers very sincerely. 



46 THE BOAT 



CHAPTER V 

The visit was still some days ahead, for Mrs. Purbright had 
given him ample notice, when Timothy found to his dismay 
that certain things that used to be in the house were no longer 
there. They were all small things, and being very unobservant, 
except when professionally training his eye on a possible picture 
of Britain, he wouldn't have missed them, if he had not been in 
the habit of using them himself — the clothes'brush that hung in 
the hall, the presentation ink'pot on his writing-table, a silver 
match-box, and a snowstorm paperweight, with which he often 
beguiled the weary intervals between his thoughts. His dis- 
covery of these depredations was spread out over several hours 
of one evening, when he had come back from an expedition 
on Wimbush's bicycle, in search of copy ; he felt morally sure 
that before he left, all the things had been present and correct. 
Anyone might have taken them, for Effie and Beatrice had also 
been out for the afternoon. Disregarding the warnings of 
instinct, he rang the bell, never a popular move, and asked 
Effie if she could throw any light on the disappearances. 

Effie's vague, lackadaisical manner stiffened at once. "I'm 
sure I don't know anything about it," she said. ''I never touched 
the things." 

**Oh, but when you dusted them?" 

Effie did not deign to reply, and Timothy reaUsed to his 
horror that he had made two gaffes. He must try to put the 
inquiry on a more impersonal footing. 

**Of course, I don't for a moment," — he began, but before 
he had time to say more, Effie burst into tears. Sobbing noisily 
and swaying, she went out of the room, leaving the door open; 
the sounds of her distress echoed down the passage until the 
kitchen door slammed on them. 

Silence settled on the house, and seemed to penetrate, an 
active and malignant presence, into its furthest corners. 
Timothy tried to write, but in vain. He could not construct 
another world; his own, or rather Effie's, was too much with 



THE BOAT 47 

him. He had committed an unforgivable sin; by his clumsiness, 
his stupid directness of approach, he had destroyed her peace 
of mind. Walking up and down, glad to be making some 
movement in the static, hostile room, he pondered what he 
should do. Follow her into the kitchen and try to calm her? 
But what could he say? The things had disappeared, and cos- 
setting Effie would not bring them back. 

Footsteps sounded down the passage, a firm steady tread; 
they crossed the hall, and Beatrice, dark and square and 
lowering, stood in the doorway. 

''If you please," she said, ''Effie and I wish to give in our 
notice." 

Timothy's heart turned over, and a void, whose walls yearned 
painfully inwards, opened within him. He heard himself say: 
"I'm very sorry to hear this, Beatrice. Won't you tell me why 
you want to go?" 

"We would rather not say anything about it," Beatrice said, 
her face getting still more set and square. 

"Oh, but you must tell me," said Timothy, who already knew 
only too well. "Has it anything to do with the things that have 
been . . . lost?" 

"We don't like being in a house where such things are said," 
Beatrice remarked. 

"I never said anything," Timothy retorted, irritation lending 
him courage. "I merely asked Effie a question. Surely there's no 
harm in that." 

"You say no harm," said Beatrice with relish. "You say no 
harm. Effie's in bed now with a sick headache." 

"Oh dear," said Timothy, looking round for a way of escape 
that was not blocked by Beatrice. "I am so sorry. Tell her not 
to get up until she feels better." 

"She won't do that, you needn't worry," said Beatrice 
grimly. "She won't get up to be insulted. Once is enough." 

"Oh, very well," said Timothy. "But I think you're being 
rather unreasonable, you know." 

"We don't know anything about that. We've got our good 
name to consider," Beatrice answered. "We've got our pride, 
too.*' When Timothy made no rejoinder to this, she said, "I 
shouldn't be surprised if it was him as took them," 



48 THE BOAT 

''Him?" asked Timothy. ''Who do you mean?" 

"Why did you pick on us," Beatrice countered, her gaze 
directed so unwaveringly at the square of carpet between 
Timothy's feet that he felt it must be boring a hole there, 
"when there's him as well? He has the run of the house, same 
as us." 

Timothy felt a twinge of distaste. "I suppose you mean 
Wimbush. Of course, I shall ask him, since neither you nor 
Effie seems disposed to tell me anything." He turned away. 

"That's right, trying to put the blame on us," said Beatrice. 
"We could tell you a thing or two about him, we could." 

Timothy found that the ostrich4ike policy of not looking at 
Beatrice lessened the strain of talking to her. 

"I'd rather not hear any more," he said, sitting down at the 
writing-table, with his back to her. "When do you wish to go?" 

To his surprise Beatrice had no answer ready. For the first 
time she lifted her head, but her eyes did not meet his. "I'm 
ready to go tomorrow," she grumbled, "but I've got Effie to 
think of. It's not very nice, is it, asking us straight out like that? 
I should have thought you would have shown more con- 
sideration." 

This small victory made Timothy feel magnanimous. 

"Very well," he said pacifically. "Let's hear what Effie says." 
Resolutely straightening his back against Beatrice, he reached 
for the writing paper; and a feeling of detente in the room, 
rather than any physical sign of her withdrawal, told him that 
she had gone. 

'The Manor House at Yoreham Parva,' he wrote, 'is a 
particularly attractive specimen of the Jacobean style, straight 
on the north front, a hollow E on the southern, garden side. 
Between the two brick wings is a two-storeyed stone porch, 
most elaborately decorated. In front, a balustrade with statues, 
Italian or in the Italian style. The house was empty, the gardener 
told me ; the family had left because they could not get the staff 
to run it. I asked him how many servants they kept, and he said, 
six, and eight in the old Squire's time. I remember villas on the 
Brenta much larger than the Manor House at Yoreham Parva, 
which were run by three or four servants, and my own, which 



THE BOAT 49 

was more modest but wonderfully un-labour-saving, was 
managed by a couple: they never complained that the work was 
too much.' Timothy frowned, shook his head, but let the 
sentence stand. 

'Italian servants are more adaptable, I think, than English 
servants. They are not trained, of course, in the sense that ours 
are. They don't efface themselves, far from it; they consider 
that their employer's business is theirs too, and seldom 
hesitate to give him their advice. But, dear reader, you have 
already heard too much about Amalia and Armando. Both their 
virtues and their faults are clearer to me now that I see them in 
the light of my relationship — a very happy one, let me add — 
with my own servants here.' 

Timothy paused, and reminded himself that he was painting 
a picture of Britain, not taking a photograph. 

'Italian servants in their felt slippers, smiling their way 
through the day, working very long hours, apparently not 
wanting any time off, setting vocation above vacation, not 
always to be found when wanted but always wanted when 
found, would exasperate many a skilled English housewife; 
they slouch about like soldiers on fatigue, they never, as soldiers 
on parade are told to, look as if they owned the piece of ground 
they stood on. Humility shows in their mien, and humility and 
style are seldom found together. 

'English servants have their pride. Much has been said 
against pride by pens abler than mine, but one cannot help 
respecting it even if its manifestations are sometimes dis' 
concerting. To take a hypothetical case, suppose I say something 
which Belinda, quick to notice where one has overstepped the 
mark, takes amiss. Ruffled, wounded, she says at once, "I have 
my pride." Simple, magnificent, unanswerable. 

'Would an Italian servant have said that? No. With them, 
amor propria is a quality to grace the boards of the opera, but 
not to be used as a weapon (their only weapon, for what odier 
have they?) to humble a despotic employer, to resist the power 
that corrupts. Mussolini took from the Italians their pride and 
vested it in himself; lowly in their own lives, they could strut in 
his. He could not have done that rape on Belinda ; and as long 
as her type survives to withstand the petty t^nrant ot the 



50 THE BOAT 

drawing-room, Fascism will get no foothold here. Pride is a 
stubborn thing, and once roused does not quickly strike its 
flag: to awake it rashly is an unchristian act, for which one may 
pay dearly — as dearly as one pays for rousing the British lion. 
But Belinda is not implacable. Si foret in terris, Democritus 
could win her with a smile, and if I go to her and say, 
'' Behnda— " 

Timothy laid down his pen. What could he say to Beatrice? 
Writing about her, arguing her case, he had persuaded himself 
that she was in the right. Had she come in at that moment he 
might have found a playful formula that would have appeased 
her. But the only answer to his thoughts was the loud, startling 
peal of the dinner bell. He followed the welcome summons into 
the white-panelled room, with its glowing electric fire and blue 
and fawn curtains of figured cotton damask. 

Beatrice was putting in his place a plate of soup. It steamed 
with friendliness, and perhaps rather to it than to her he 
exclaimed, *'Oh, Beatrice, how good that soup smells!" But 
she did not answer; nor did she when he again complimented 
her on the taste of his first mouthful of mutton. Her presence 
behind him was like something heavy and sour-smelling draped 
across his shoulders. He waited till she had gone, and then 
fetched himself a bottle of claret from the wine cupboard under 
the stairs. It was Bordeaux of no special mark, but of the 
1929 vintage. Unwarmed, unbreathed, undecanted, it came 
to his side like a guest who has had no attention paid him, 
who has not even been greeted: but its subtle unfolding fra- 
grance, its crimson glow in the glass, lit by a shaft of red, the 
soft shadow on the surface soon to be broken by his lips — 
kindled a mood of anticipation in him. He drank ; and drinking 
asked something of the wine which it at once supplied : a sense 
of comradeship, of good manners, of age-old responsiveness to 
human needs. What he wanted, it had; and the second glass 
had it in even fuller measure than the first. 

He did not notice Beatrice's third entry; did not hear the 
swish with which she took away his dirty plate or the clatter 
that heralded the clean one. Unconsciously he registered the 
fact that the dish which she clutched to her, so closely that, 
stretching, he almost had to pluck it from her bosom, was a 



THE BOAT 51 

cheese souffle, and cheese is a friend to wine. A friend to wine ! 
And what is wine to man? Almost more than a friend, so it 
seemed at that moment to Timothy, deprived of the sound of 
the human voice, sent to Coventry but reconciled to his banish- 
ment. The sense of otherness, which belongs to friendship, was 
present in the glass and awaited him in the bottle; in neither was 
there pride, or anger, or unkindness, merely a silent invitation 
to an exchange of critical appreciation, the capacity for which, 
in both of them, broadened and deepened with every sip. 

The wine likes me, Timothy thought, the wine likes me ; and 
the more I like it, the better it will like me. For a while his mind 
busied itself with the distinctions which claret, being an intel- 
lectual draught, demands. But soon its influence stole to other 
seats of sentience, as the sound of music confounds the 
lightning of the composer's thought in the soft thunder of its 
sensuous appeal; pleased and comforted, his whole being 
glowed with responsiveness and gratitude, and the only shadow 
on his happiness was the shadow declining in the bottle each 
time he held it to the light. 

Far from waking with a sour stomach and a heavy head, he 
felt on excellent terms with the morning, and it was only when 
Effie came in with his tea that he remembered he had something 
hanging over him. 

"I hope you're feeling better, Efiie?" 

She gave him a sad Uttle smile. ''I was ever so upset by what 
you said." 

Oh dear, thought Timothy. 

''But your headache has gone, I hope?" 

"I shouldn't like to say." 

''Then I think it must be better." With a lighter heart 
Timothy began to pour out his tea. 

"Beatrice doesn't think we ought to stay, after you've 
suspected us." 

"But I haven't and I don't," cried Timothy. He would have 
liked to add, "But I soon shall," but refrained, believing that fair 
words soak up ill-feeling as charcoal absorbs acid in the stomach. 

"I don't know what to say, I'm sure," said Effie with a 
twitch and a simper. "It all depends on Beatrice." 



52 THE BOAT 

Leaving Timothy on tenterhooks, she withdrew, and pre- 
sently rejoined Beatrice in the kitchen. 

"Did he say he didn't mean it?" asked Beatrice. 

''No. He was too proud. But he asked if my headache was 
better." 

"And you said no?" 

"I wasn't going to tell a lie, so I just said I couldn't say." 

"It's no good giving way to him, Effie. We'd better go." 

"All right, you tell him then." 

At that moment Wimbush came into the kitchen, with 
Timothy's shoes, looking small and fragile, swinging from his 
earth-stained fist. 

"Good morning, ladies. Pleased to find you up so early. If 
there's anything I can do for you, you have only to ask me." 

His glance slid past Beatrice and rested on Effie; there were 
reddish glints in his tawny eyes. Efiie always found it hard to 
keep still when anyone spoke to her, and Wimbush' s remark 
produced quite a crop of tremors. She sat down on the table and 
giggled weakly. 

"Don't speak to her like that, she's upset," said Beatrice 
severely. "We had something unpleasant happen last night, and 
she was ever so poorly. We've given in our notice." 

"Oh, that's too bad," cried Wimbush, "and just as we was 
beginning to get on so nicely. You don't mind how you 
disappoint people, does she, Effie? And what was this un- 
pleasantness, if I may ask?" 

"Don't tell him, Effie," said Beatrice sharply. "It's no business 
of his. Why does he go poking his nose in? If Mr. Casson had 
spoken to him, it might have been a different tale. . . . Drink 
this, dear, it'll do you good." She poured her friend out a cup 
of tea. 

"Thank you," said Wimbush, stretching out his hand and 
with extreme insouciance taking the cup from Effie. "I don't 
mind if I do. I'm that thirsty." 

"Well, of all the cheek!" Beatrice stormed- 

"Now, now, we don't want any more unpleasantness." 

"Who's being unpleasant, I should like to know?" 

Beatrice darted forward as though she meant to snatch the 
cup away from Wimbush ; but he had put the shoes down and 



THE BOAT 53 

was holding it in both hands, making it part of himself. As he 
lowered his broad face to the cup, Effie could see his eyebrows, 
sticking out, fierce and wiry, beyond the line of his temples ; he 
blew on the tea to cool it and his moustache swayed, lifted by 
his breath. He looks like a lion, drinking, she thought. 

''I don't know as I want to leave all that much, Beattie," she 
said. ''It wasn't so much what he said, as the shock. He ought to 
have warned us first." 

*'What did he say?" asked Wimbush, lifting his head from 
the cup. 

Before Beatrice could intervene Effie told him all the story 
*'It was the shock more than anything," she repeated. 

"I know where those things have gone," he said darkly. 
"And 'tisn't you have taken them, either. Not a nice girl like 
you. Now Beattie might have." His mocking look reduced 
Beatrice to speechless fury. ''But she didn't. You just tell Mr. 
Casson to come to me." 

"Oh, do tell us," pleaded Effie. She had quite recovered now. 
The colour had returned to her cheeks, and to her movements 
a fragile grace, a strain of race and breeding that lit up the 
kitchen like a vase of flowers, and was not lost on Wimbush. 

"Well, if you promise not to leave," he said. 

"We won't promise any such thing, will we, Effie?" put in 
Beatrice. "We shall have him accusing us of murder, next." 

"Oh, Beattie, do give over," said Effie wearily. "She acts like 
she was my gaoler, doesn't she, Mr. Wimbush? She won't 
hardly let me call my soul my own." 

"Effie!" exclaimed Beatrice, in a heart-stricken voice. 

"There, there," said Wimbush. "Don't quarrel, ladies, 
please, or I shan't know whose part to take, shall I, Effie? Now 
you kiss and be friends and I'll tell you who took those 
things. . . . But you've got to come nearer, because stone 
walls have ears." His arms made a wide embracing gesture. 
Beatrice edged away, but Effie, with a little giggle, drew closer 
to the sketched circumference. 

Meanwhile, upstairs, Timothy was reading Esther Morwen's 
letter. 

"So many things came at once, as they do at Christmas, 



54 THE BOAT 

dear Timothy," she wrote. 

"My presents, and Henry's and WilUam's and Daphne's and 
Susan's (they were all with us) and then the grandchildren's, 
six of them — you know what it's like on Christmas morning! 
Four other people had had your lovely idea, and before you 
could say 'knife' one of the grandchildren (Priscilla, I think it 
was, but you wouldn't know her now, she's grown so much) 
had pounced on those lovely, gleaming, enamelled flasks and 
set them in a row for ninepins! We managed to save them in 
time, but in the confusion all the cards had got hopelessly 
mixed up, and yours was never seen again ! so I couldn't be sure 
you'd sent anything. But I thought you would let me know if 
you had, and I do so enjoy getting your letters. 

''When you come here (and you must, I'm heartbroken that 
you haven't come already, but oh, how can I ask you to venture 
into this Bedlam — and we may have to take a dozen evacuees — 
just think of it) when you come here you must tell me which of 
the flasks is yours, and we'll have a special party for it, if it's 
still in being ! 

''I can't tell you how excited I am that you've come to live in 
England. It took a war to uproot you! I grieve for the Lucer- 
tola as if it had been my own; but no one could want to be 
away from England at a time like this. Munich was terrible — 
the suspense — and last summer nearly as bad, only we'd been 
inoculated. 

"It's such a relief, now, to see one's way absolutely clear. 
Henry and William expect to go abroad at any time ; Daphne's 
husband, Peter, is training cadets, and Susan's fiance, Alan 
Ledward (I don't think you've met him) is moving heaven and 
earth to get the Foreign Office to release him — but so far they 
won't. He frets, poor boy, I am so sorry for him. How it brings 
back 1914 ! I was twenty' five then ; David and I had been married 
for four years; Henry was three and William was a baby. 
Somehow I never thought I should be a war widow. Mercifully 
the pattern of one's life is hidden from one. I had a breakdown 
then, you may remember; I was so ashamed of myself that I 
couldn't take it as many other women did. But I never felt any 
bitterness, and I don't now. The thing is so much greater than 
oneself, and the certainty all round one — the counti*y's heart 



THE BOAT 55 

beating so steadily — makes everything easy — well, not easy, 
but inevitable. David gave me so much — the children, the house, 
the village ; we have all grown older and shared our experiences ; 
there is a strength in that which makes sacrifice only a word for 
something we all do together, like turning to the east in church. 
I think of it as fulfilment, not sacrifice. Sacrifice means that 
someone has to be appeased, like Hitler; and I feel that I am 
not sacrificing but ennobling and even glorifying myself by 
resisting him. 

"Why doesn't Italy come in on our side? I can't understand 
those dear people, whom I love almost as you do, being aloof 
and almost hostile to England. Surely Fascism is a kind of mask 
they have put on, a wax mask which will melt when the light o f 
truth strikes it? I expect you feel puzzled — not divided in mind, 
for that you couldn't be — but distressed by this seeming 
breach in our friendship with Italy, such a horrible thing, like a 
rift in a family or a feud among one's servants. I don't see how 
another country can really disagree with England, for England is 
every country's other self. I won't say better self, or you might 
think me prejudiced ! But the self they come back to when the 
fighting is over, just as children come to themselves after a good 
cry. There is a lost England in every country. That is why, to 
me, England is all-important and worth dying for; we are the 
sanity and spiritual health of the world. 

'*I wonder what you are doing? I'm ashamed to tell you I've 
lost your letter, but I know you said something about a boat. 
Was it for fishing? I know the Swirrel is a great fishing river; 
an uncle of mine used to have a rod there. Well, I wish you 
luck with the boat, whatever you want it for. Oh, and you 
spoke of neighbours, and asked me how to get into touch with 
them. I've always been in touch with mine — too much so, 
sometimes, but of course in war-time one can't be! — they'll call 
on you, I expect. But no, a single man who's taken a furnished 
house, I'm not sure they will. It would be different if you were 
married, or had bought the place. Fishing may be a link, or 
war-work: I expert you'll be doing some. And church, if you 
go to church; but perhaps you became a Roman when you 
were in Italy? The Rector would take you by the hand, I'm sure. 
Everyone meets nowadays, and are in and out of each other's 



56 THE BOAT 

houses. (My fear for you is much more that you won't find your 
neighbours very interesting. I should be cautious how you 
approach them, and leave yourself an avenue of escape!) 
Now it comes back to me: Julia Lampard. She's a sort of cousin 
of mine — her mother was a Cumberforth, and we came out 
together. She never liked me very much, and I never felt easy 
with her. She always lived among swells. She is a law unto 
herself and doesn't mind what people say. ... I could write 
to her and ask her to look you up ; but I don't think she's your 
sort. I don't suppose she opens a book. She's rather ruthless, 
and it's easy to get on the wrong side of her. 

''How lucky you are to have such good servants. Cling to 
them, they'll soon be worth their weight in gold, if they're not 
already. It's much easier to dispense with neighbours than with 
servants, I can tell you! 

''As to staying with you (you see I remember all your letter) 
nothing could give me greater pleasure. I long to see you. But 
how to get away, that's the question. I'm so tied with family and 
war-work here. Ask me again when it's warmer and we can go 
out in your boat! But remember you are welcome here any 
time, if you can put up with our hugger-mugger way of living. 
My best thanks for the flask, and love 
from 

Esther." 

Timothy re-read the letter gratefully. Of the three, it was the 
one that warmed him most. But wasn't there something lacking 
in all of them? Two things, really: the writer's self, and his. Or 
rather, they were dwarfed and overshadowed; in Tyro's letter 
by his conviction of the wickedness of the world ; in Magda's 
by politics; in Esther's by patriotism. In one way or another, 
though with such different results, the war had taken possession 
of their minds, crowding out the he and she. The clear call of 
one personality to another was muffled by a drum-beat. To 
each, Timothy's Christmas present, his ambassador, his repre- 
sentative, had arrived as some kind of interruption to the tenor 
of a mind set on other things. One and all they had found it 
convenient to ignore or to forget. Perhaps a petty affirmation 
of the ego was out of place at a time like this? If the absence 



THE BOAT 57 

of acknowledgement implied a rebuke, as perhaps it did, he 
should not be above taking a lesson. He tried to remember his 
own letters; and their insistence on his trivial concerns, in a 
world at war, made him hot to think of. 

Yes, but at any rate he had kept the banner of friendship 
flying; surely that was something; the book, the scent, the 
vacuum flask might have burdened a war-clogged postal service, 
might have laid an added strain on minds tired by wat'Work. 
But the values they symbolised — the right and duty of each 
human being to treat another as an end in himself, not as a flag 
or a coloured shirt or a sinner, these were what we were fighting 
for: freedom of access to another's heart. His letters might be 
laboured and diffuse; but at least they were carefully differen- 
tiated ; not only the address on the envelope but every word had 
been written with a careful sense of the person it was meant for. 
No jealous estranging 4sm,' no hint that there was something in 
his life more important than they were, had been allowed to 
intervene between him and his correspondents. Or had it? 
Had it? As Timothy sipped his tea, his eyes strayed out of the 
window to where a peaked roof showed above a cluster of 
bamboos. The boat; he had forgotten the boat. 



58 THE BOAT 



CHAPTER VI 

Timothy was sensitive to the content and quality of silences, 
but breakfast was a meal with so many voices — purring, 
sizzling, crackling — that it was almost a companion in itself. 
Until Effie appeared, he hadn't noticed her absence. Her face was 
portentous, an expression it was by nature so ill-equipped to 
bear that her slim, tall body seemed to buckle beneath a physical 
weight. 

*'Mr. Wimbush would like to see you, sir, when you're free," 
she said, her voice faltering and tripping between the words. 

What now? thought Timothy. Is Wimbush going to leave, 
too ? He picked his way between the blobs of dirty snow, grey 
and porous, that lingered on the terrace, and made for the 
kitchen-garden, the long red-brick wall of which ran parallel 
with the right side of the house, and far beyond it. The gate, 
surmounted by stone balls, was approached by a path flagged 
with mill-stones ; at one point this broadened out into a circular 
paved platform, in the middle of which was a sundial, flanked 
by four stone seats. 

'Stone, Stone, Marcus Stone,' intoned Timothy, who found 
this part of the garden particularly nostalgic and lacking only a 
beautiful, pensive, sad-eyed lady in evening dress and a picture 
hat, with her hand resting on a deer-hound equally dis- 
tinguished, wistful and expectant. They were looking along a 
terrace, much grander than this, and bordered by clipped yew 
hedges, for someone who did not come, perhaps for Timothy. 
Magaril The lady, possibly fearing pneumonia, faded into the 
pale, cold light of the January morning, but the dog remained, 
for a dog is an ice-breaker, and Timothy remembered the 
Rector's advice to provide himself with one, as a companion 
and as a gage — of what ? General trustworthiness to the people 
of Upton. Knitting his brow he glanced at the sundial, which, 
true to its boast of only recording the sunny hours, ignored this 
one. Feeling his weight inadequate to the massy pavement he 
glided on. The wrought-iron gate swung outwards ponderously ; 



THE BOAT 59 

its closing clang let him into another world. The satyr of the 
vegetable garden had his back to Timothy; he was digging and 
did not seem to hear him come; but he redoubled his efforts, 
and when Timothy drew near turned round with a look of 
surprise which at once broadened into welcome. 

Timothy greeted him warmly, adding, ''You said you wanted 
to speak to me." 

Wimbush leaned on his spade. "Yes, sir, what would that 
be about?" He seemed mystified. 

"I was expecting you to tell me," said Timothy. 

Light appeared to dawn on Wimbush. '"Tis they girls, I 
expect, sir. They were having a little game with I." 

"Yes, Wimbush?" 

"They seemed all in a dither and 'twas about nothing, so I 
said rd tell you, sir. 'Twas only for the joke." 

Timothy always welcomed a joke and was specially glad to 
think of one in connection with last night's affair; but he did 
not want to hurry Wimbush. 

"That Beatrice only has to hear a pin drop but she begins 
belly-aching." 

Timothy pursed his lips, out of loyalty to Beatrice. 

"And, of course, between you and I, sir, 'twas Miss Chadwick 
who took those things. But don't be telling her I said so." 

"Of course not, Wimbush." Miss Chadwick! Why hadn't 
he thought of her? It was not her first raid on the house. 
But before, she had always let him know she was coming and 
asked if he would mind — or rather, told him that he would 
not mind. Moreover she had always taken, or caused to be 
removed, substantial objects like bedside lamps or coffee- 
tables. It had not occurred to him to connect her with the dis- 
appearance of trifles like match-boxes and paperweights. 
Timothy's relief was immense, for after all the things were hers, 
and the notion of theft which had hung about his mind like an 
unpleasant smell, could be dismissed. But the thought of what a 
fool he had been still rankled. 

"'Tisn't quite fair, is it, sir," Wimbush was saying, "seeing 
as how you've taken the house furnished, in a manner oi 
speaking." 

"Well, perhaps not quite fair," admitted Timothy. 



60 THE BOAT 

^'Miss Chad wick's a very good lady and I'm not saying any- 
thing against her," Wimbush went on, *'but she knows the 
colour of a halfpenny as well as anyone else." 

**I expect she has to be careful," said Timothy tolerantly. 
Since she had rescued him from his domestic dilemma, Timothy 
refused to think unkindly of Miss Chadwick. 

''She promised me a rise, she did," said Wimbush, ''not 
long before you came, sir, and then she seemed to forget 
about it." 

"I'll remind her, Wimbush. I'm sure I pay you far too little." 

"There isn't many as would tackle this garden single-handed, 
and with gentlemen offering me more money all the time to go 
to them." 

"No indeed, Wimbush, it's very good of you to stay." 
Timothy thought a moment and said, "I hope she won't come 
when I'm not looking and take you away." 

Wimbush laughed delightedly, rocking to and fro and 
digging the handle of the spade into his midriff. "That's a good 
one, sir, that is. She'd have a job to shift me. Do you know how 
much I go?" 

"Go where?" 

"On the scales." 

"Twelve stone?" ventured Timothy. 

"Thirteen stone ten, sir, and that's not with all my clothes 
on either." 

"You don't say so!" 

"Effie, she wouldn't believe it." 

"About the clothes?" 

"Ha! Ha! sir, but a man's clothes do weigh a lot more than a 
woman's." 

Timothy wondered if the conversation was quite seemly. 
The silk-clad lady in the Marcus Stone picture rose before him, 
and mentally he tried to weigh her, with and without clothes. 
He felt that Wimbush must be reading his thoughts; but what if 
he was? It seemed a long time since Timothy had talked to 
anyone. 

"Beatrice must be a good weight for her size." 

"That's right, sir. All that cooking make a woman heavy. 
The fat gets into them somehow." 



THE BOAT 61 

Timothy hesitated, then said with a rush, ''She gave me 
notice yesterday." 

Wimbush whistled and looked extremely shocked. Then he 
said, ''I shouldn't pay any attention to that, sir. They know 
when they're well off. Besides, Effie, she's a good girl." 

''You like her better than Beatrice?" Timothy was annoyed 
with himself for saying this: it was all wrong. Talking to 
servants was a bad habit he had picked up abroad. Most 
English people would think it unconventional and unattractive. 
But he must talk to someone, and who else had he to talk to ? 

"Well, of course, they're nothing to me, sir, neither way," 
said Wimbush rather loftily. "They come and they go. But of 
the two, of the twOy Effie is the one I should like to meet Mrs. 
Wimbush. I can't say fairer than that." 

"No, indeed," said Timothy, and made a mental note to call 
on Mrs. Wimbush without delay. 

Before the reconciliation with Beatrice and Effie , to which he 
much looked forward, Timothy felt he must get in touch with 
Miss Chadwick and raise the question of the removals. It 
would be better to have confirmation from her own lips. This 
he could do on the telephone, and without betraying Wim- 
bush's confidence; all that was needed was a little diplomacy. 
At the same time a certain display of moral indignation was 
justified. He took up the instrument. 

"Yes, this is Miss Chadwick speaking. Who is that?" 

"Timothy Casson, Miss Chadwick." 

"Would you mind speaking a little more distinctly, I'm 
afraid I didn't catch the name." 

"Timothy Casson." 

"Siegfried Sassoon?" 

"No, Timothy Casson, Miss Chadwick, your tenant." 

"Oh, it's Mr. Casson. I'm afraid the line's not very good. 
Well?" 

"Forgive me for worrying you, Miss Chadwick, but a rather 
tiresome thing has happened. One or two things are missing 
from the house, and I thought I ought to let you know." 

"Missing? What sort of things?" 

Timothy told her. There was a moment's silence, then Nliss 



62 THE BOAT 

Chadwick said, with a little laugh, ''Didn't it occur to you that I 
should have taken them?" 

"Well, really, it didn't." 

''But what use would a thief have had for a rather worn 
clothes-brush?" 

"I expect they brush their clothes," said Timothy, nettled. 

"Perhaps; but they would hardly risk imprisonment in order 
to look smart. Really, Mr. Casson, for a writer you did not 
show much imagination." 

"Well, as long as it was only you," said Timothy, feebly 
rude. 

"Don't think I don't appreciate your kindness in telling me. 
And if anything of value disappears, I hope you will at once 
inform the police." 

"But how shall I know?" Timothy began. "And there's the 
inventory." He lived in terror of this inculpating document. 

"I think you can safely leave that to me, Mr. Casson. Was 
there anything else?" 

"Yes," said Timothy, nervously determined. "I wanted to 
ask you if I might raise Wimbush's wages." 

"Why?" 

"I thought that with prices going up — " 

"Prices will go up if wages go up, Mr. Casson. It is an 
inevitable consequence." 

"I know, but sometimes one has to put sentiment before 
economics." 

"A dangerous doctrine but it shall be as you wish. Only, have 
you asked Colonel Harbord?" 

"Colonel Harbord?" 

"Yes, I think it would be more neighbourly to consult him. 
We live in a community, and cannot escape its obligations." 

"But I don't know Colonel Harbord." 

"Not know Colonel Harbord?" 

"I mean, he hasn't called on me." 

There was a perceptible silence. Then, in an altered tone, 
Miss Chadwick said: "In that case you had better act on your 
own initiative." 

Trying to recover his position, Timothy said carelessly, 
"But I'm hoping to meet him next week at the Rector's. 



THE BOAT 63 

Perhaps I had better leave it until then." 

**I think it would be more tactful. You will find him very 
understanding, and anxious to help. I hope you are comfortable 
at the Old Rectory, Mr. Casson?" 

**Very comfortable, thank you, Miss Chadwick." 

"It's a dear old house, a very dear place. I can't get used to 
living in a modern villa, and though I have many of my own 
things round me, they look awkward and self-conscious, as if 
they had been stolen from somewhere." 

Timothy laughed gaily. 

"My servants would say they had been." 

"Had been? I'm afraid I don't quite follow." 

"They think the things were stolen." 

"Oh. But I couldn't very well steal my own property, 
could I?" 

Timothy put down the receiver with mixed feelings. Relief 
was still uppermost, but he wished he had given a better account 
of himself with Miss Chadwick. Really, her referring him to 
Colonel Harbord deserved a snub. His mind, relieved of the 
paralysing pressure of the moment, invented several withering 
retorts. But, he comforted himself by thinking, one cannot be 
rude to a lady, especially a lady older, much older, than oneself. 
He might have told her so. But that would have been to put 
their relationship on a strained footing, the attitude of mistrust 
which haunted the nations of Europe and ended in universal 
war. And he might have to ask her a favour later on. It was much 
better to finish with a laugh, even if the laugh had been on him. 

Beatrice and Effie, however, did not share his pacific outlook ; 
they were extremely angry with Miss Chadwick. Primed with 
the news, bursting to tell them that the culprit was found out, 
he had bearded them both in the kitchen; but the revelation 
was an anti'climax; he saw at once that they knew already. 
Nothing more was said about the notices, so Timothy assumed 
that these had been tacitly withdrawn. But though the two 
women were indignant with Miss Chadwick, they were not 
pleased with him, and still less pleased when he told them, with 
triumph, of his diplomatic interview witli her on the telephone, 
and the merry laugh with which it ended. They thought he had 
behaved in a very poor-spirited way. 



64 



THE BOAT 



"But what about us?" demanded Beatrice. **She may not be 
a thief, I don't say she is, but she comes into the house Uke one, 
and what do you do? You accuse us. It isn't very nice, is it? 
We have our good name to think of, even if she hasn't." 

Beatrice seemed to be unable to understand that Timothy 
hadn't accused them, so he agreed it was not very nice. 

''She's a nasty old so-and-so, that's what she is," said 
Beatrice, and Effie, who had hardly spoken but contented herself 
with wincing and undulating and making inarticulate sounds to 
underline what her friend said, echoed with satisfaction, 
"That's what she is, a nasty old so-and-so." 

Grimly pleased with having summed up Miss Chadwick in a 
phrase, they exchanged nods over tightly shut mouths, and 
seemed to be allowing their resentment to relax. But a moment 
later Beatrice said, "And you won't like it either, sir, when you 
find she's taken something you really want, like that old boat." 

It would be very inconvenient, Timothy agreed, and he began 
to wonder whether a policy of appeasement was the best way 
of treating Miss Chadwick. 

"And her a judge's sister, too." 

Yes, that did make it worse. She ought to know better, and 
he would consult his solicitor — quite informally, of course, and 
take the opportunity to mention his disappointment over the 
boat. It would be only prudent to find out what the legal 
position was. 

"I sympathise with you, of course," his lawyer wrote. 

"But I'm afraid I can't give you much encouragement. It was 
a pity that you did not allow us to examine the terms of the 
lease properly before you signed it. Miss Chadwick un- 
doubtedly has the right to come into the house — not without 
giving you notice, of course, but I doubt if you can legally 
object to that, especially as she seems to have notified the 
gardener, who is your servant. That she should take things 
away without asking your permission is, I admit, very irritating, 
but I question whether it is actionable. Your argument that you 
took the house with certain things in it is difficult to answer, 
but these matters are governed a good deal by custom and 
etiquette. A certain latitude is always allowed to ladies, whose 



THE BOAT 65 

ideas of business are subject to caprice in a way that ours are 
not. 

''As to your inquiry about the boat, again we regret that we 
cannot offer much encouragement. A house-agent's prospectus 
is, as you probably know, not intended to be an exact descrip- 
tion of the property; Messrs. Leeson & Renton's reply, that 
boating had been enjoyed by previous occupiers of your 
property (as witness the undoubted existence of the boathouse), 
and they had taken for granted that it could still be so enjoyed, 
absolves them from the suspicion of ill-faith. We do not think 
that this unfortunate circumstance could be construed as a 
breach of contract on their part, or that you could, in a court of 
law, establish the claim that you had taken the house on false 
pretences. 

''We appreciate your disappointment (oh, do you? fumed 
Timothy, growing more and more ruffled) at having provided 
yourself with a boat which respect for local feeling prevents 
you from using. Again we must regret that details such as these 
were not examined more carefully before you signed the 
contract. As to the further point you raise, whether you would 
be within your rights to put your boat on the river and take 
your pastime regardless of the wishes of your neighbours, we 
are inclined to think that this must remain a question between 
you and your social conscience. Fishing rights are, of course, 
very strictly preserved, and the propulsion of a rowing boat or 
skiff over waters in which fishing is being enjoyed would 
probably constitute an act of trespass, unless it could be proved, 
as it probably could be, that boating was enjoyed on those waters 
before they were leased for fishing. Your situation seems to be, in 
the legal sense, without precedent. The case of Piscator and 
others versus the Blue Barge Haulage Company, in which the 
horse, drawing a train of barges, took fright and knocked into the 
water several anglers who were fishing from the towpath can- 
not be held to apply, and if applied would only w^eaken your case, 
since the anglers obtained heavy damages from the Company, 
while the Company's counter-claim for damages, based on 
the plea that one of the fishermen, by waving his hat and other in- 
temperate gestures frightened the horse, which also fell into the 
water and was unable to resume its duties for some weeks, was 



66 T HE B O A T 

dismissed with costs. 

''We shall be happy to act for you if you wish us to, but we 
think you will be well advised to make the settlement of these 
questions a matter of private negotiation with the persons 
concerned." 

Beatrice and Eifie were not more put out by Timothy's sur- 
render to Miss Chadwick than was Timothy by the lamentable 
lack of fight displayed in Messrs. Givin and GivalPs letter. 
Their frequent and hollow use of the word 'enjoyment,' where 
no enjoyment was, increased his chagrin. To console himself 
he wrote them another letter, slightly subacid in tone, 
inquiring whether, if Miss Chadwick took away all the furniture 
from the house, stripping it bare, he would still have no 
legal remedy against her; was there no limit, he asked, to the 
chivalry required of men in their business dealings with ladies ? 
And would not the inventory, for the making of which he had 
paid half, be soon as worthless as the paper it was written on? 
And as to the boat, how could he enter into private negotiations 
when the person chiefly concerned, Mrs. Lampard, did not 
answer his letter, and the others resolutely remained outside 
the pale of his acquaintanceship? 

No sooner had Timothy written this peevish outburst 
than his anger cooled, and he began to await the solicitors' 
reply with trepidation. Nor were his fears groundless. Messrs. 
Givin (Sl Givall's answer was decidedly crisp. It would be time 
to act, they said, when Miss Chadwick had stripped the house 
bare. Meanwhile, if she took away, without Timothy's leave, 
any important piece of furniture such as a sideboard, bed, or 
article of essential domestic use, he was at once to inform them, 
and they would seek an injunction against her. With regard to 
the boat, they were sorry but they could add nothing to what 
they had already said. It might happen that under stress of war 
Timothy would find, as others did, that fishing was a sufficient 
outlet for his energies. 

The prick of conscience often turns to rage. Why should it 
be patriotic or praiseworthy for them, Colonel Harbord, Captain 
Sturrock, Commander Bellew and the rest, to dangle their 
fishing rods in the water, sitting or standing with idiotic 



THE BOAT 67 

expressions in silly-looking hats from dawn to dusk, coming 
home only when light failed, to carouse over their whiskies and 
sodas, and tell each other fishermen's tales, which were 
notoriously untrue ? How could this be thought more helpful to 
the war effort than a brisk row up or down the river, eyes glued 
to the bank in quest of pictures of Britain? And the return, 
refreshed and renewed, to, perhaps, a modest gin and vermouth 
to refresh his imagination while the picture came to life? 

Comparing their relative usefulness, Timothy grew even 
more indignant that the fishermen should escape censure and 
he not. It was sheer snobbery on the part of his solicitors to 
imply that fishing was a more reputable war-time pursuit than 
boating. Boating was a proletarian pastime; fly-fishing was a 
privilege of the rich; that explained their attitude. Almost for 
the first time Timothy felt himself warmly proletarian, a cham- 
pion of the have-nots against the high-ups. 

Besides, Colonel Harbord, Captain Sturrock and Com- 
mander Bellew were professional members of the fighting 
services; they ought to neigh like war-horses instead of lining 
the river bank or paddling in it protected by the waders which 
they ought to have sent to the nearest lifeboat crew. They 
approved of war; they were overjoyed, no doubt, to see Europe 
in flames ; they were no doubt disappointed that the conflagra- 
tion seemed to have been checked. They held the view that 
death in war was a worthy sacrifice, and one that every gentle- 
man should be proud to make; to them the battlefield was the 
seed-bed and forcing-house of virtue, a general purification 
from which those who survived came back better men to beget 
clear-eyed, straight-limbed sons who would also gladly perish 
in war when their turn came. They might even — who knows — 
subscribe to the appalling doctrine that it didn't matter killing 
people so long as you did not hate them; cut-throats with 
a cheerful smile and a kind word for their victims. But no; 
the eyes that narrowed with cruelty over the dying struggles of 
an exhausted fish, the faces that hardened above the hands that 
held the gaff (or whatever it was) were not likely to spare as 
much as a grimace for the death-agony of a Boche. They lived 
for their blood-lust, thought Timothy; nothing that satisfied 
that would come amiss. Every day, in one form or another they 



68 THE BOAT 

indulged it, either at the expense of the brute creation or of their 
fellow'men; and after the orgy, no doubt, when the instinct 
for cruelty which lurks in all of us had been appeased, they 
might even appear between six and seven over their whisky, 
or between nine^thirty and ten'thirty over their port, thoroughly 
amiable and good-natured; more amiable, more good-natured, 
perhaps, than those of us who have all our lives repressed such 
impulses, and must pay the penalty for those innocent and 
innocuous years in a fit of irritability or moroseness now and 
then. 

For he, Timothy, wished ill to nobody and nothing; a 
Buddhist priest could not have more reverence for the sacred- 
ness of life ! If he saw a German about to rape his sister — - 

The whirr of the telephone bell interrupted Timothy's orgy 
of self-justification. Indignant thoughts streaming off him 
like drops of water from a tired swimmer struggling in the 
surf, he dashed into the white-panelled room and snatched 
up the receiver as if it was a life-line. 

"Yes?" 

**Can I speak to Mr. Casson?" said a woman's voice — surely 
not Miss Chadwick's? 

''Yes, this is him speaking." 

"Oh, Mr. Casson, this is Volumnia Purbright. I just wanted 
to remind you about Saturday. I was afraid it might have 
slipped your memory. I expect you have a great many engage- 
ments." 

"Oh no, Mrs. Purbright." 

"Well, I just wanted to say how much we are looking 
forward to seeing you. It's going to be, for us, quite an occasion. 
Sxich a lot of people. You're going to meet all your neighbours." 

"That will be a pleasure." 

"I'm sure they'll think so. And one more thing, which is 
really the reason why I rang you up. Edgell will be here!" 

"How perfectly splendid." 

"I do so want you to meet him. He is such a dear boy. He 
has literary leanings." 

"I shall love to talk to him." 

"That's all right, then. You didn't mind me disturbing 
you?" 



THE BOAT 69 

"You couldn't have done me a greater kindness." 

"Do you know, your voice reminds me of Edgell's? I feel we 
are friends already." 

"So do I, Mrs. Purbright." 

"Au revoir, then, Saturday." 

"Goodbye, Mrs. Purbright." 

Treading on air, Timothy returned to his writing table. How 
much more workmanlike it looked, stripped of the inkpot (a 
converted stag's foot, which he never used), the silver match- 
box, which gave Effie extra work to clean, and the childish and 
distracting snow-storm! Miss Chadwick had done him a kind- 
ness by taking them away. What an admirable woman she was, 
clear-headed and prompt in action, the sort of person one 
could respect. And his neighbours were looking forward to 
seeing him, were they? Timothy blushed for the thoughts he 
had just been entertaining about them. They were not in the 
least what he had imagined. They were elderly country gentle- 
men, living quietly on inadequate pensions, not having much 
fun, not able to entertain each other very much, barely able per- 
haps to give each other a drink. Their deeds and decorations in 
the Army and the Navy had made a stir at the time, but the 
generation that remembered how Colonel Harbord won the 
D.S.O. was passing away: with a patient shrug the retired 
officers acquiesced in this partial oblivion, for they had never 
been pot-hunters; all they needed, in the way of fame, was the 
tacit recognition, each by the other, that he had served his 
country well; and for recreation, a little fishing — so easy to 
reconcile, by neighbours who were looking foward to meeting 
him, with the brief sorties of Timothy's boat — -gliding down the 
shallows where the water hurried over sunlit pebbles, lingering 
on some green pool overhung by willows, interfering with 
nobody, disturbing nothing, leaving hardly more trace of its 
passage through the water than did the mayfly itself! 

And besides the solitary joys, the party at the Rectory would 
initiate Timothy into exactly the kind of social life he liked — the 
society of rather staid, elderly people of set manners and habits, 
who kept engagements, and to whom he would appear almost 
yovmg; whereas to those bright bare-legged beings, in trousers 
and pullovers, who haunted tlie Fisherman's Arms and with 



70 THE BOAT 

self-conscious bravado, three or four abreast, pushed their 
perambulators down the village street, and sometimes cast a 
friendly glance in his direction — to them he would be simply an 
old fogey, utterly out of date. Of course, he would not find them 
at the party; the Rector had made his attitude to them quite 
clear. The people he would meet would be precisely those whom 
he wanted to meet : the backbone of the district, the guardians 
of the river. And Mrs. Lampard, wondered Timothy, would she 
be there ? 

It was Thursday; only two days to wait. Tomorrow he would 
arrange an expedition with Beatrice and Effie to visit Keystone 
Castle, a Border stronghold which would be sure to interest 
them, for in no miediaeval castle in England were the arrange- 
ments for the housing of the serfs, servers, villeins and other 
varlets better preserved. As a picture of Britain, it showed 
how far we had progressed, and as an object lesson to Damaris 
and Chloe it might be useful, too. 



THE BOAT 71 



CHAPTER VII 

*'My dear," — wrote Timothy, and stopped. For the first time in 
his life he wanted to write a letter and did not know to whom. 
He shook his pen. A spreading blot showed that it was ready : 
readier than he. The imposing silhouette of Keystone Castle, 
the most recent subject of his pen, with hard-won phrases 
floating from it like balloon captions in an advertisement, 
threw its shadow across the Rectory drawing-room, and the 
clear tones of Beatrice and Effie, loudly condemning the Middle 
Ages, contended with the subdued murmur of voices cour- 
teously deferring to each other which had greeted Timothy on 
his arrival at the cocktaihparty. 

*But,' Damaris flashed at me, 'Why did they put up with it.^ 
That's what I Want to know. Why didn't they give notice?' 
Because, I explained to the intelligent but historically un- 
instructed girl (for Damaris is no femme de lettres) under the 
Feudal System it was practically impossible to give notice; 
you were part of the pyramid which had its apex in the King, 
and could no more detach yourself from your position, high 
or low, than a brick can wriggle out of one wall and insert itself 
into another. 'Well, I call that most unfair!' 'Yes, and we've 
progressed a great deal since then, haven't we, Chloe?' Chloe, 
perhaps readier to agree than Damaris, thought we had. 'You 
are free to leave me at any moment' (I continued the lecture), 
*but I can't leave my house, even if I wanted to.' 'You can't?' 
said Damaris incredulously. 'No, because I hold it on an 
unbreakable five years' lease. You might say I was still living 
under the Feudal System and Lady Gloria Fitzpatrick (in vulgar 
parlance Miss Chadwick) is my overlord. I am bound to her by 
a complex system of dues and services.' 

At this point Damaris merged into Edgell Purbright. 

"I say," he exclaimed, "five years is a long stretch! Won't 
you get a bit sick of us by that time?" Timothy didn't think he 
would. "It's just the place I was looking for," he said, glancing 
at the snowdrops, massed companies of them in hngcr-bowls. 



72 THE BOAT 

with here and there a frilly aconite, which nodded at him from 
the window-sills. ''It's just the place I've been trying to get 
away from," Edgell Purbright said, "but don't tell the parents." 
Involuntarily Timothy looked up and saw all round him, 
clustered on tables, piled on cabinets, balanced precariously on 
brackets, glimmering from behind glass, the most heterogenous 
agglomeration of objects that he had ever beheld in any human 
habitation. Hanging from the ceiling, clinging to the walls, 
springing up in thickets from the floor, were spoils from the 
four corners of the world. Of all styles, shapes, sizes, colours 
and substances; of ebony, ivory, mother-of-pearl, silver, 
lacquer, china, tortoiseshell and lapis-lazuli, they solicited but 
did not clamour for attention. A League of Nations ! But how 
much more decorative, how much more effectively creating 
unity out of diversity, than parallel assemblies at Geneva and 
the Hague! Mrs. Purbright's catholicity of taste had wrought a 
miracle. For what can be more selfish, more intolerant of each 
other's claims, than works of art? Here, towering in pyramids, 
or reaching outwards in espalier formations, they each con- 
tributed their own quota of beauty to a collective beauty that 
was not their own. 

The drawing-room at the Rectory was a long room made out 
of two, with two fireplaces, in each of which a fire was burning. 
On the frontier between them stood a low table carrying the 
drinks, a plentiful supply, yet so arranged, Timothy noted with 
admiration, as not to seem ostentatious or excessive. Within 
reach of this table Edgell Purbright had taken his stand, and 
Timothy with him; and two or three more lingered on the 
borderline, casting glances every now and then at the two fire- 
sides, as if they were wondering which group to join. Timothy 
knew where he would like to be; with the group on his left, 
where the Rector was sitting, smoking contentedly and talking 
to a straight-backed middle-aged man, his face so closely shaved 
as to seem almost polished, in whose bleached blue eyes when 
they were at rest there was a hint of strain and sternness. A 
sailor, he seemed, perhaps Commander Bellew? Timothy 
distinguished other male figures, giving an impression of 
grey hair and grey clothes under the grey cigarette smoke; and 
among them, several ladies, equally neat and self-contained, 



THE BOAT 73 

equally unemphatic in bearing and gesture, looking like a 
masculine idea translated into a feminine language. 

"You're looking the wrong way," said Edgell Purbright, 
before Timothy had time to speculate further on the identities 
of the Rector's circle. ''Eyes right." 

Timothy braced himself to meet a blast of colour. But 
he was disappointed; the invaders were more soberly dressed 
than their opposite numbers across the barrier. There were 
no bare legs, no trousers, no pullovers of scarlet or pale 
blue; black predominated, black that clung close to slender 
bodies and spoke with an urban accent, rebuking tweeds. 
Timothy had the impression of a man or two, but these did not 
lessen, they rather increased the general effect of femininity. 
Tactfully, as she thought, but mistakenly as it turned out, Mrs. 
Purbright had put on her gayest things. Very tall, she had 
draped herself across a chair and a footstool so casually that 
she almost seemed to be putting her feet up; she was smoking 
a cigarette through a long black cigarette-holder tipped with 
silver, with which from time to time she made a wide gesticula- 
tion. The air of vague and comprehensive benevolence with 
which she had drawn Timothy into the room was more than 
ever in evidence, and there was something aristocratic and re- 
assuring in her unself-consciousness. 

*'My mother's so excited by all these pearly-queens," said 
Edgell. ''She thinks she'll get them to come to church. She 
wants to bring the smart set and the old contemptibles together. 
What a hope! But I like those jolly girls, some of them. There's 
one I don't know: that fair one with her back to you. She's 
rather pretty." 

Timothy saw whom he meant, but the back of her head told 
him little. 

"But it's you my mother really wants to know," Edgell con- 
fided, "and shall I tell you why, or one reason why, though it 
isn't very flattering. She thinks you might have a steadying in- 
fluence on me — though why you should bother! And anyhow 
I'm in the Air Force now. . . . Wait a moment, I must take 
this tray round. But let's each have another first." 

There was still some gin and vermouth in the cocktail 
shaker, but it had grown watery, and Edgell refreshed it 



74 THE BOAT 

generously from the bottles, '^l don't care for this sort of show, 
do you?" he went on. "At least I like the drinks, but not the 
social part, it's all meaningless. Those girls are all right in the 
Fisherman's Arms — and I don't mean in Harbord's arms, or 
Sturrock's — they'll never be there! But this is all make-believe. 
Mother would have them, but Father didn't want them and he 
was right. If I was a writer like you are, and writing about 
present conditions in England, I should say that everything 
those people stood for" — he nodded in the direction of the 
fishermen — *'was finished. They don't belong any more. Now, 
if you'll excuse me, I'll go and give them something to drink." 

He moved away, taking the tray with him, and leaving 
Timothy to the companionship of his glass. At the same 
moment his host and hostess detached themselves from their 
respective groups and converged upon him. A silence fell on the 
company, and Timothy felt the impact of a cross-fire of 
speculative eyes. 

Mr. and Mrs. Purbright reached him simultaneously. The 
Rector's forehead flushed at the contretemps, but his wife 
laughed. 

''Well, Mr. Casson," she said. ''We both had the same 
thought. We couldn't let Edgell monopolise you any longer. 
Now which of us would you rather go with?" 

Timothy flashed an appealing glance at the Rector, on whom 
was hung, almost visibly, the key to the polite society of 
Upton, the key that might unlock the boat-house door. He 
said to Mrs. Purbright: 

"You must answer for me." 

Focussed on the two alternatives, Mrs. Purbright' s dark blue 
eyes squinted slightly. "Then I shall claim him, though I expect 
he would much rather go with you, Edward." The Rector's 
brow cleared. "Ours is a mothers' meeting. Are you interested 
in babies, Mr. Casson?" 

"Well, in an academic way." 

"I'm glad to hear that. I think everyone should be." She 
drew Timothy with her. The Rector, with the air of one who 
unexpectedly finds an empty seat in a crowded train, returned 
to his place. Mrs. Purbright's voice grew more confidential. 
"They're so important, babies, I mean. Such a trouble for one 



THE BOAT 75 

thing." She sighed. "But you're not married?" 

"No." 

Mrs. Purbright stopped. "What a pity. But why should I say 
that? I expect you're very happy." 

"Well—" began Timothy. 

"You needn't bother to tell me. I expect you have a great 
many relations?" 

"Oh no, almost none." 

Mrs. Purbright stubbed out a half-smoked ciagrette, and 
taking another from a silver box fitted it awkwardly into her 
long cigarette holder. 

"No parents; for instance? You might have — you look so 
young, sometimes." 

"I've been an orphan almost longer than I can remember." 

"How sad for you, how very sad. But some people are happier 
without ties. Or don't you think so? You mustn't bother to 
answer — people tell me I think aloud." 

Timothy detected the elusive current of her sympathy, a sort 
of Gulf Stream lapping against the shores of his mind. 

"Men have other interests, of course," she went on. "I some- 
times envy them. Fishing all day! You must have seen them on 
your rambles." 

"I don't think I have," said Timothy. "Isn't it perhaps a little 
early?" 

"Of course, how stupid of me! I shall never learn. The 
mayfly! What I meant was, you have a boat, haven't you?" 

Timothy said he had. 

"A boat!" Her eyes grew dreamy. "I can understand so well! 
The Standridges had a boat once. I wonder what became of it? 
The river was not so private then; more fun in a way, I suppose. 
You like sharing things, Mr. Casson?" 

"I should be delighted to lend you the boat at any time," 
said Timothy eagerly. 

"How kind you are! But I didn't quite mean that. Our 
boating days are over. And I doubt if Edward. . . . You see, 
we represent what you would most dislike." 

"Oh!" exclaimed Timothy, aghast. 

"Yes, but that needn't prevent us from being friends, need it? 
I feel we are, already. Only this question of the river. I do so 



76 THE BOAT 

sympathise with you; I should Hke to help you." 

''Help me?" echoed Timothy. 

''How silly I sound, and perhaps rather patronising. No, not 
help. But I shall always be glad to tell you anything I can." 

"About the river?" Timothy was mystified. 

"Well, yes. And about, — what shall I call them? The customs 
of the country. I expect everything was different in Italy — no 
fishing, or not the same kind. They live on pasta, mostly, don't 
they? But I could tell you something about the river, too. Let 
me see. There's a waterfall called the Devil's Staircase — " She 
broke off, for a third person had joined them, the woman, as 
her empty chair showed, whom Edgell Pur bright had pointed 
out to Timothy. She was tall and strikingly fair. A cataract of 
pale fine hair, drawn smooth as silk on the top of her head, 
rippled to her shoulders and rebounded in a thick gold mist. 
Long lashes curled over blue eyes that held something of a 
baby's wondering regard, innocent, questioning and wistful. 
Where had Timothy seen her before? In a picture, but not a 
picture of today, she was much too unsophisticated ; in a garden 
with stone balls and clipped yew hedges, standing on some 
steps: the lady with the dog! 

"I'm afraid I must go, Mrs. Purbright," she said. "I've got to 
put the che-ild to bed." Her voice had a faint lilt, an undertone 
of sing-song. 

"Oh, how lucky you are," sighed Mrs. Purbright. "How old 
is he?" 

"She's a girl, I'm afraid," the lady answered, "and she's just 
going to be five, I think. I'm never quite sure of their ages." 

"Oh, you have more than one, then?" 

"Yes, there are three of them. Sally's the baby. She's only 
eighteen months." 

"And the middle one's a boy?" 

"Oh no, I'm afraid not. She's a girl, too." 

Mrs. Purbright tried not to look disappointed, and said, 
"But how nice. Three little girls." She tried to put some 
enthusiasm into this remark, failed, and said encouragingly, 
"But you'll be having a little boy one day." 

"Perhaps," said the lady. She turned her beautiful sad face to 
Timothy and added, "But I must get married first, mustn't I?" 



THE BOAT 77 

Mrs. Purbright and Timothy stared at her. ''But I thought — " 
began Mrs. Purbright, puzzled. 

'That the children were mine? Oh no, they're not. They're 
Frances Bingham's. I promised to put them to bed for her." 
She laughed; her eyes lit up and her whole face sparkled, then 
suddenly resumed its melancholy cast. 

Timothy and Mrs. Purbright joined in the laugh rather un- 
certainly, and Mrs. Purbright said : 

"I am so dreadfully vague. Names float in front of me. You 
must excuse me. I was just going to introduce you to Mr. 
Casson as Mrs. . . . Miss, I mean. . . ." She stopped, 
confused. The lady smiled, but did not help her out. Mrs. 
Purbright plucked the strings of her mind for the chime, the 
tinkle of recognition that a recovered memory gives. She did 
not catch it, but she had heard several names new, or nearly 
new, to her that evening. Selecting one at random, she said: 

"Angell, that must have been it." 

"Miss Angell," said the lady with the ghost of a smile, which 
somehow missed Mrs. Purbright and fell on Timothy. "Mrs. 
Purbright likes boys better, but all angels are females, aren't 
they, Mr. Casson?" 

How clever of her to have got his name so pat. "I've always 
thought so," Timothy said. 

"And unmarried." 

"Of course." 

The lady smiled. "But I'm afraid you're mistaken. My name 
isn't Angell." 

"Oh dear!" said Mrs. Purbright. "Angell seemed so right for 
you, somehow." 

De-angelised, the lady shrugged her shoulders slightly. 

"Would you tell me your name again? It was stupid of me to 
forget." 

"Cross." 

"Cross! Miss Cross! Of course! But do you know I'm almost 
sorry, because the other name suited you so much better. I 
shall always think of you as Miss Angell. And now you must 
go. What a pity." 

Miss Cross's face grew sadder under Mrs. Purbright's gentle 
scrutiny. 



78 THE BOAT 

''Or must you?" Mrs. Purbright went on. "Stay a moment 
and talk to Mr. Casson." ''Well, just a moment," said Miss 
Cross. 

With a curious feeling of confidence, Timothy led her to a 
chair and fetched another for himself. Mrs. Purbright returned 
to her circle, and the conversation, which had languished, 
renewed itself round her. 

Miss Cross waited, with her hands in her lap. 

*'I really mustn't keep you," Timothy ventured. 

"Why not?" 

"Oh," said Timothy, "the children. You must be feeling 
anxious about them." 

Miss Cross raised her eyes. 

"To tell you the truth I was feeling terribly bored. You don't 
blame me, do you?" 

"For feeling bored?" 

"Oh no, not for that. You couldn't. But for saying I had the 
children to look after." 

"Hadn't you?" 

"Oh no, it was just an excuse. I simply had to get away." 

"You mustn't let me keep you," Timothy repeated. 

"Well, just this once. You're the writer, aren't you? I've 
heard a lot about you." 

"Oh," said Timothy. "I didn't think anyone in the village 
had." 

"Indeed we have, we're all your fans. And we think it's 
terribly tough luck on you." 

"What is?" 

"Oh, about your boat. We all think it's a frightful shame. 
We're all on your side." 

Timothy glanced round. The guardians of the river were 
smoking peacefully. They looked safe and comfortable. As soon 
as Miss Cross had gone he would get up and join them. But did 
he want her to go? 

"We had quite an indignation meeting about it last night," 
his champion went on. "Frances said she wondered you didn't 
take a nice little tube or whatever it is of arsenic and poison the 
fish.;' 

Her voice, which was always clear, became positively bell- 



THE BOAT 79 

like at the last three words, and one of the fishermen looked 
round with a query in his eye. Timothy was horrified, but the 
next moment he couldn't help admiring Miss Cross for daring 
to speak her mind. "We'd like to help you if we could," she 
went on. '*We had all sorts of plans. But there was always one 
thing against them." 

''What was that?" 

"You don't like us," sighed Miss Cross. She spoke quietly, 
even sadly, but there was a click of finality in her tone. Timothy 
turned scarlet. 

"Not like you?" 

"I'm afraid not. You see, we're just intruders. We don't 
count. We have babies and do our own housework. We go to 
the pub and have a good time. You don't like that, do you?" 

"I'm not a great pub-crawler," admitted Timothy. "I drink 
in solitude. But that's nothing to be proud of. And if you're an 
intruder, so am I." 

Miss Cross considered this. 

"Well, in a way, I suppose, we are in the same boat. But what 
a tactless expression! It's just where we're not. Too bad." 

Her face filled with sympathy, and Timothy began to feel 
himself exceedingly ill-used. 

"We ought to hold a council of war," she said. "Come any 
night to the Fisherman's Arms. You'll find masses of 
sympathisers." 

"But wouldn't that be rather public?" 

"All the better. You can't do anything without publicity. 
You didn't become famous by writing your articles and putting 
them into a drawer." 

Timothy had never thought of himself as famous. He knew 
he had a certain reputation with the Broadside's less austere- 
minded patrons, but he didn't imagine that the general reader 
had ever heard of him. 

"Of course we're very much afraid of you." Miss Cross went 
on. "Petrified, in fact. You walk down the street, not looking at 
anyone, and we hide behind our perambulators." 

"But I'm sure I should have seen you," protested Timothy. 
"Do you mean I walked past you without looking at you?" 

She smikd her slow sad smile, and slightly shook her head. 



80 THE BOAT 

'They all say the same. 'Of course he doesn't want to know 
us, why should he? He's just holding himself aloof until he can 
get in with them.' " She nodded very perceptibly in the direction 
of the tweedy group who were talking to each other as members 
of the same family do, in monosyllables, with shrugs and 
upward pursings of the lips, showing no extra liveliness of 
voice or manner, thoroughly at home with themselves and with 
the Rector. 

'They're a dull, up-stage lot, aren't they?" Miss Cross 
observed. "About as much use as a sick-headache. I wouldn't 
mind seeing some of them strung up to lamp-posts." Her face 
brightened, and she gave Timothy an enchanting smile. "But 
I mustn't start crabbing your friends." 

'They aren't my friends." 

"No, but you'd like them to be. Unless you're waiting for an 
invitation from Mrs. Lampard." 

How on earth did she know? But in a small place rumour 
flies : Timothy remembered that in Venice his movements were 
known and reported to him, sometimes before he had made 
them, sometimes when he had never dreamed or would dream 
of making them. Looked at in the right way it was all rather 
funny. He laughed. 

"Oh, I only wrote to her about the boat." At once Miss 
Cross divined his change of mood. 

"I know," she said. "What a damned shame. Look here, if 
you can bear to meet us, I'm sure we can think of something. 
A proper plan of campaign, I mean, not just a phoney war. 
Trust me, I'll arrange it for you. I'm just longing to have a go 
at them." The lilt of her voice traced a pattern on the air; it 
stopped like a painter's pencil in midstroke, leaving her 
innocent, almost babyish face softened by a sweetness strangely 
at variance with her words. The power of her beauty stole over 
Timothy, bringing a delicious quickening of every sense; and 
at the same time the intimate moral comfort of having found at 
last an ally warmed those places in his heart in which love 
grows and courage springs ; and his sense of humour, which, it 
must be confessed, had been nourished on the denial of many 
of his other faculties, took wing. 

Only to see her, to be with her again! "Of course I'll come," 



THE BOAT 81 

he said. ''Any time you like. When? Where?" 

Dreamily she looked at him, with tilted chin and lowered 
eyelids. The wistful lady with the dog faded away, to be 
replaced by the properties of another scene not altogether 
different, belonging to the same age but glowing with a more 
ardent poetry; a halo, a sundial, and a dove: Beata Beatrix. 
The room grew indistinct, but now there was another sound 
in it besides the hum of voices ; the creak and drag of chairs 
rubbing on the carpet. Shapes rose and moved towards each 
other. One silhouette detached itself, and came to where they 
sat. It was Edgell Purbright. 

''Sorry," he said, 'but I've been deputed to break up your 
tete-a-tete. The governor wants Mr. Casson to mxcet his sporting 
pals and their worthy ladies — the backbone of the place," he 
added, looking humorously at Miss Cross. 

"Aren't you being rather rude?" she said, her face ex- 
pressionless. 

"I didn't say the beauty of the place," retorted Edgell, quite 
unruffled. "But you see, this is a getting-together party, and Dad 
feels that Mr. Casson ought to take the rough with the smooth." 
He despatched a furtive, collusive grimace at the Rector's 
group, two or three of whom were now standing up and 
making discreet departure signals. "Perhaps you would let me 
try to entertain you for a moment," he said, lifting an eyebrow 
to Miss Cross. 

Ignoring him, she turned to Timothy. "I don't know how Mr. 
Casson feels, but I feel I've been insulted." 

Social training and the instinct not to make a scene struggled 
in Timothy with the desire to avenge Miss Cross. A thousand 
swords should have leapt from their scabbards ; his did not. He 
stammered : 

"Well, perhaps in the circumstances we might be 
allowed. ..." 

"Why, certainly," said Edgell. "It's up to you." He gave 
them both a brief, unrecognising stare, and was turning on his 
heel when Miss Cross called out: 

"Mr. Purbright." 

He faced them with a guarded smile. "Yes?" 

"You've got a button undone. ... I thought you'd like to 



82 THE BOAT 

know." 

Edgell glanced down, and flushed. Revolving anxiously, his 
gaze swept the room. Where least danger threatened, he turned 
and fumbled. 

'That'll teach him," said Miss Cross. At the sound of her 
voice Edgell turned. He was wearing the King's uniform, the 
blue of the Royal Air Force, and he was not lacking in com- 
bative spirit. 

''Improperly dressed on parade," he said. "What do I get 
for that?" 

Immediately Miss Cross laughed. Dimples drew sickles in her 
cheeks, and a pang of jealousy stabbed Timothy. 

"I'll let you go now," she said to him, giving Edgell the full 
benefit of her pensive, demure regard. 

Having received his conge, Timothy got awkwardly to his 
feet, but too late. Taking their cue from the others, the group 
round Mrs. Purbright had also risen, and the whole party was 
already on the move. The gentry began to file past Timothy — a 
clean hard line of jaw, a clipped grey moustache; a high'domed 
forehead over jutting, wiry eyebrows; and the ladies among 
them, high'cheek'boned, Roman-nosed, steady-eyed with plain 
gold, or pearl, or diamond earrings fitting tightly; figures firmly 
curved but not voluptuous; coats and skirts grey, rust-brown, 
purplish, that absorbed the light ; restrained indoor movements 
braced for leave-taking. More than one, as they passed Timothy, 
cast a glance in his direction, discreet, incurious, yet measuring. 
And what did they see? In the pier-glass opposite, Timothy 
could see what they saw : Miss Cross in her dead-black close- 
fitting cloth suit, with its white collar, her beautiful legs, 
touching, caressing each other, showing the gleam of flesh 
through the mesh of her silk stockings ; and above, the springing 
lily of her face, so young compared with theirs, and her blue 
eyes travelling slowly from one cavalier to the other. Of the 
two, it was Edgell who fitted into the picture, a smile of under- 
standing lent experience to his boyish features ; while Timothy, 
bewildered by competing hopes, grey-haired, middle-aged, felt 
uncertain where he belonged, but looked (the mirror had no 
doubt of it) the property of Miss Cross. 

Without rising, without moving, she let the procession pass. 



THE BOAT 83 

Then when the goodbyes at the door had left a space round her, 
she got up, and looking at her own reflection rather than at 
Timothy or at Edgell, with all the confidence of her slender 
tallness she bore down on Mrs. Purbright. 

**Why, it's you!" her hostess said. "I was afraid you'd gone 
away." Spying Timothy in Miss Cross's wake, she added, "Vm. 
so glad that Mr. Casson prevailed on you to stay." 

**It wasn't me," said Timothy, inventing wildly. ''Miss Cross 
remembered there was someone in the house after all." 

*'Ah!" exclaimed Mrs. Purbright, "I felt sure there would be. 
I mean," she hurried on, squinting benevolently at Miss Cross, 
"Fate couldn't want to rob my party of so much prettiness!" 

"I have enjoyed myself enormously," Miss Cross answered, 
formally. ''Goodbye." 

"And we enjoyed ourselves looking at her, didn't we, Mr. 
Casson. . . . And you had the pleasure of a talk as well." 

"So did I," put in Edgell. "Miss Cross said a few words to 
me, too." There was a touch of challenge in his tone. 

"Then you were both of you very lucky men.''^ 

Mrs. Purbright put a lot of emphasis on the last three words. 
"You won't forget us. Miss Cross, will you? We're always 
here." 

Miss Cross assured her that she would not, and repeated her 
goodbye more decisively than before. Timothy added his, and 
was hurrying out after her, when Mrs. Purbright said: 

"Don't run away. We've hardly seen anything of you." 

Timothy muttered something about wanting to stay but being 
afraid he ought to get back. 

"Children to put to bed? No, of course not," Mrs. Purbright 
answered herself. "How silly of me. You're a bachelor. But we 
may all be having evacuees before long." 

Timothy's eye strayed to the door. "I know, and my servants 
say they'll give notice if we do." 

"Oh dear, and servants are so precious nowadays. I shouldn't 
do anything to annoy them. Just say you are a man." 

"Wouldn't that be rather obvious, Mother?" asked Edgell. 
"Wouldn't it be insisting on something that's self-e\-ident?" 

"I mean a man can't be expected to look after children. He 
really mustn't lose his servants." Mrs. Purbright looked at 



84 THE BOAT 

Timothy with concern. "I hope you have good servants?" 

''Oh, they are treasures," agreed Timothy, his eye trying to 
follow his mind through the door. The door opened to admit 
the Rector who had been saying goodbye to Miss Cross. 

''Has she gone?" asked Mrs. Purbright, anxiously. 

"Well, I shut the door on her," the Rector said. 

"Yes, I know," said Mrs. Purbright. "Only it doesn't follow 
. . . but you see what I mean, Mr. Casson, Edward and I have 
to do everything for ourselves — we do get some help, of 
course, neighbours are very kind — but such things as washing 
up and opening the front door." 

"Really, Mother, if you insist on keeping him against his 
will, you should regale him with more entertaining conversa- 
tion," said Edgell, offering Timothy a cigarette. 

"I know, I know, and he must be used to talking to such 
clever people. What was I going to say?" 

"I can't tell you," said her husband. "But I was going to say 
I was sorry we didn't get Casson into our little party." 

"Mr. Casson was otherwise engaged," said Edgell, "and I 
don't suppose he would have found their wit very scintillating." 

His father frowned. "I may be old-fashioned, but I value 
many things more than wit. Besides, Sturrock can tell a very 
good anecdote, very good, nothing risky, of course, just honest 
fun. And Hector Bellew is a very widely-travelled man, well, 
naturally he is, he only just missed being an admiral. Harbord we 
all know; he's as straight as a die. Casson would have enjoyed 
talking to him." 

"Mr. Casson isn't interested in fishing," said Edgell, 
maliciously, "if that's what you talked about. He's an oarsman, 
aren't I right, Mr. Casson?" 

"Well," began Timothy, "I have a boat. . . ." 

"Yes." The Rector cleared his throat. "That was one reason 
why. . . . Naturally, everyone feels sympathetic. If we haven't 
been rowing ourselves, we have friends who were. 

"It came out in discussion. We have our . . . our . . . er . . . 
little informal talks, Casson, our tobacco parliaments. That was 
why I was sorry you weren't able to ... er ... be with us just 
now, to find how sympathetic, how — what shall I say . . .? 
accommodating, the atmosphere was." 



THE BOAT 85 

Timothy said he, too, was sorry. But it wasn't ahogether true, 
and his heart was outside the Rectory, looking up and down the 
lane. 

"When people come together in a friendly spirit," the 
Rector went on, ''something emerges, some way out of the 
difficulty that perhaps none of those present could have 
thought of for themselves. The situation is eased; there is a 
general tendency to waive rights. Harbord had one plan, to 
which Bellew — cautiously, mind you — was inclined to agree. 
Then Watson Stafford, bless him, proposed something quite 
different." 

"If it is a question of paying — " Timothy began. 

The Rector held up his hand. "Oh no, my dear fellow. 
Money doesn't come into it. In a sense of course it does ; the 
fishings here are very costly; but it wouldn't influence such men 
as the friends who have just left us. Goodwill bears money 
every time. That is why I'm sorry — but it's no use crying over 
spilt milk. No, it's a matter of rights and precedents. If you were 
to use your boat — " 

"I see," said Timothy. "Others might want to use theirs." 

"Exactly. And as Sturrock said, there would be pan- 
demonium on the river, positive pandemonium." 

"Negative pandemonium wouldn't matter so much," said 
Edgell, pertly. 

The Rector frowned. 

"Since you joined the Air Force, Edgell, you seem to have 
lost your sense of values. A most important principle is at stake. 
If you were to ask me what that principle is, I should be at a loss 
to define it, but it involves the whole relationship of the in- 
dividual to society." 

"Haven't you left out Mrs. Lampard, Dad?" 

"One thing at a time, my boy. I was coming to her. Of 
course we must wait for Mrs. Lampard to give us a lead." 

At the name Timothy sighed, and a silence fell on the room. 

"Well, this isn't helping us to win the war," said Edgell. 

Timothy saw his chance. 

"I really must be off. Such a bore, but I've an article to 
finish." 

He held out his hand to Mrs. Purbright, who disregarded it 



86 THE BOAT 

and said, "Ah, now I remember! We were going to ask you to 
be kind enough — " 

"No, no. Mother. He won't want to vet my literary efforts. 
We've got him into quite enough trouble as it is." 

"Trouble, my dear boy, trouble? I hope not." Mrs. Pur- 
bright' s mild gaze traversed the room like a gentle searchlight. 
Her son's eye followed hers. 

"Too late, I'm afraid, the mischief's done." 

"I had wanted Mr. Casson to meet everyone, but sometimes 
it's more fun talking to two or three. Was that what you 
meant, Edgell? I hope he wasn't bored." 

"Oh no, Mrs. Purbright." 

"I know Edward doesn't, but I think all this new blood is 
rather a good thing, a transfusion that might help us. All those 
rejuvenating processes, they make one shrink, but ought they 
to? I mean, there's a great deal of beauty in blood — " 

"Mother!" 

"Well, there is. Think of a hospital nurse, very pretty, really 
lovely perhaps, with a hypodermic needle, and all the patients 
lying round, pale and listless — poor things, you know how hope 
droops in such places from the sameness of everything — why 
they'd welcome a dog's bark. Yet the patient has his own life, 
the comfortable routine of his sensations; even if they are all 
dulled and drained by illness he doesn't want them altered, he 
turns away, he dreads the prick — " 

"Mother, you make us feel quite sick! Anyhow, some of 
those old boys have very thick skins. They'd turn a needle. 
And it didn't strike me they wanted rejuvenating. They seemed 
impervious to the charm of all your hospital nurses." 

Mrs. Purbright looked saddened and distressed. 

"No, it didn't go quite as I should have liked. But I wasn't 
thinking of them so much — " 

"Who were you thinking of?" said Edgell. "Out with it." 

"Miss Cross seemed an unusual sort of young woman," 
remarked the Rector. 

"I noticed you took your time seeing her off." 

"Not at all. But she seemed a little uncertain of the way, so I 
paused to give her directions." 

"I'm surprised — I mean I'm surprised that she didn't know 



THE BOAT 87 

the way," said Mrs. Purbright. ''But she's only been here a 
short time — she's staying at The Nook." 

''I should hardly have thought there was sufficient sleeping 
accommodation in that small house," observed the Rector. 

"You must tell her to mark her bedroom with a cross, Dad." 

''She wore such pretty clothes," Mrs. Purbright put in, 
dreamily. "One can't help feeling grateful to someone who 
looks as decorative as that. I quite fell in love with her." 

"I thought she was pretty, too," said Timothy. 

Now the Rector came forward with his testimony. 

"Very striking, very striking. I nearly told her she was an 
ornament to the village. Pity she belongs to the . . . the other . . 
camp." 

The three men seemed to warm to each other at the thought 
of Miss Cross. Their faces expanded, their gestures loosened 
and became freer, and Edgell was emboldened to say, "She 
certainly does strengthen their side. I mean to see more of 
her." 

"Oh, but Edgell, darling," his mother interposed, "you're 
only here such a very short time. Your leave is up on Wednes- 
day, isn't it? Think of the disappointment for her — that sounds 
like flattery, but in times like this, you know, we clutch at 
straws." 

"Who does? Who clutches? And am I the straw?" 

"In my life I've had the most acute disappointments over 
the smallest things, haven't I, Edward?" Mrs. Purbright 
appealed to her husband. "Out of all proportion — yes, and 
made scenes about them, I'm afraid. The young feel things so 
terribly. It's then that one needs to be clever about one's life; 
later, it doesn't matter so much, does it, Mr. Casson? But of 
course we should be delighted to see her — all of us, she would 
be wasted on one person." 

Edgell winked at Timothy. 

"I don't think you'll get her here again in a hurry." 

"Oh why not, Edgell? You grieve me. Don't you think she 
enjoyed herself? We enjoyed looking at her so much." 

Edgell was silent, regretting what he had said. He did not take 
it back, however, for he knew that his modier's mind was 
hospitable to all ideas, and she would soon arrancje diis one in a 



88 THE BOAT 

position where it harmonised with the rest. Nor was he wrong. 

'*Of course we won't ask her, if you're against it," she said. 
''People should be themselves. It makes them much less in- 
teresting if the corners are rubbed off." 

''Miss Cross's corners were quite sharp, I can promise you," 
said Edgell. 

"Well, well," said his mother, "we've made a step in the 
right direction. Meeting people in a room is a very different 
matter from seeing them in church — " 

"They don't go to church, I only wish they did," said the 
Rector, and Timothy made a pious resolve, not for the first 
time. 

"Perhaps they will now." Mrs. Purbright lost herself in a 
day-dream in which sleek blond heads, bowed in prayer, were 
lit by coloured gleams from stained-glass windows. The organ 
swelled, the congregation rose to its feet, a splendid gathering 
such as Upton had not seen for years, filled the church. Not all 
the newcomers had brought prayer-books: the sidesman 
shuffled from pew to pew distributing them, receiving a shame- 
faced nod from the embarrassed worshippers, but still there 
were not enough to go round. Here came Edgell with a tray and 
glasses, wicked boy. Hands were decorously outstretched, and 
Mrs. Purbright's fantasy broke up. Edgell, who had an intuitive 
insight into her thoughts, said, "You'll empty the church, you 
know. Mother." 

"My darling, how could you say such a thing? All they need is 
to feel they will be welcome." 

"Sturrock won't welcome them in his pew." 

"There are plenty of others. It's such a lovely church, Mr. 
Casson, isn't it? I never find it difficult to imagine Heaven when 
I'm there. I wish there was more praise, though. We have so 
much to be thankful for. Prayer and repentance are very good 
things, but there would be less need for them if praise came 
easier to us." 

All her three hearers looked uncomfortable, and the Rector's 
frown returned. 

"The Church's liturgy was carefully designed," he said, "to 
meet the requirements of average believers. Thankfulness is 
enjoined upon us, as a Christian duty, but other obligations and 



THE BOAT 89 

observances come first. The thanksgiving of the heathen is 
mere sound and noise." 

Mrs. Purbright did not agree. "Surely praise is a wider thing 
than that. God is praised in a beautiful face, for how should we 
know it was beautiful, unless it reminded us of Him? And when 
we are happy seeing it, that is in itself an act of praise." 

The three men still looked rather sheepish, but much less 
critical than before. 

''It's rather unfair on Colonel Harbord," remarked Edgell, 
"that one can see his face without feeling at all thankful." 

"There are many kinds of beauty," said Mrs. Purbright, 
speaking more confidently now that she had the ear of her 
audience. "Colonel Harbord is a very fine man, Mr. Casson; 
you will appreciate him, I know. Think how sweet he was about 
Mrs. Bridge's pig, Edward; and he scarcely knew her, she had no 
claim on him at all." 

"Mr. Casson isn't a pig, Mother." 

"Of course not, Edgell dear. I only meant that the pig had 
been a great nuisance to the Colonel, breaking into the garden 
at Lawnflete and . . . and nesting among his beloved begonias. 
He was so understanding about it, not at all what he's sometimes 
thought to be." 

"Mother thinks he'll get to heaven on piggy-back, but I 
shouldn't try nesting among his begonias if I were you, Mr. 
Casson." 

"Naturally it's different with a dumb animal." 

"Pigs are not dumb, Mother." 

"No, my darling, I only meant that Colonel Harbord is 
quite capable of seeing someone else's point of view, even if 
at the moment it seems to conflict with his." 

"Yes, Harbord has shown up well on a number of occasions," 
remarked the Rector. "For instance, when his house was 
burgled and his loving-cup taken — that was before you came 
here, Casson — he appealed for a lighter sentence for the mis- 
guided culprits, hardly more than youths they were. And when 
the fire broke out in his garage, which looked like arson — a very 
serious matter, arson, Casson — he flatly refused to prosecute, 
flatly. And another time when those really horrible fellows, I 
hardly know what to call them" — the Rector's brow darkened, 



90 THE BOAT 

Timothy could see him struggling with the tide of anger — 
''perhaps sweeps would not be too harsh a word, actually 
dynamited the river, but dynamited it, Casson, only a few yards 
from the lawn at Lawnflete, under his very fishing-rod, you might 
say, a cowardly act if ever there was one, for what chance have 
the fish, what possible chance? against high explosive, he would 
not let his man set the dogs on them, though Grappler and 
Boxer were only just down from the police college and were 
longing to go for them. In fact the Chairman of the Bench 
commended him for his restraint." 

The Rector turned on Timothy the glare that was meant for 
the sweeps ; his whole being and presence seemed to dilate with 
indignation, and Timothy drew back a pace. 

''I had no idea that such things went on here," he said. "I 
thought that this was such a quiet little place." 

''Of course it is, of course it is, my dear fellow." A new gust 
of feeling from among the many circling round them fanned the 
embers of Mr. Purbright's wrath in Timothy's direction. 
"Have I said anything to suggest that it is not?" 

"Oh, no, nothing at all," said Timothy hastily. "Perhaps it's 
just that Colonel Harbord isn't a very popular man." 

"Not popular? What makes you think that?" demanded th« 
Rector. "I should say that with the possible exception of Bellew, 
and Watson Stafford (who, between ourselves, rather courts 
popularity) he's the most popular man in the parish." 

His raised eyebrows challenged Timothy to deny this. On 
an impulse Timothy said, "Then you think that perhaps he 
won't object to my using the boat?" 

The Rector's face changed instantly; his eyes narrowed and 
became grave and considering. Wrinkles of humorous craftiness 
spread out fanwise round them, and he said, "That would be 
telling, wouldn't it, and we mustn't do anything undiplomatic, 
especially at this stage. Such a pity you didn't find it . . . er . . . 
possible to talk to our friends yourself. There were signs, there 
were distinct signs. Of course a great deal depends on the 
attitude of Mrs. Lampard, and we don't know what that is, yet. 
But don't give up hope." 

"No, don't give up hope," pleaded Mrs. Purbright, and her 
large long face with its high, almost Italian colouring, suddenly 



THE BOAT • 91 

looked extremely concerned. ''He must have his boat, 
mustn't he?" Her eyes, lit by a sibylline gleam of urgency, 
appealed first to her husband, then to her son. 

''Mother thinks you want to praise God in that boat," said 
Edgell lightly. A laugh started, in which, after a second's 
hesitation, the Rector joined. It seemed a sign for Timothy to 
to go. Cordial farewells accompanied him across the hall and 
to the doorstep. The sudden cold caught at his throat, and the 
night, pressing on his eyeballs, brought a sense of strain. 
Denuded all at once of warmth and friendship, he shivered, 
and broke into a run. But it was not, he soon discovered, really 
dark; the glow from a hidden moon lit his footsteps to the 
garden gate. 



92 THE BOAT 



CHAPTER VIII 

At the junction with the main road Timothy paused. Some^ 
thing was moving in the shadow of the tall hedge opposite, 
something lustrous, owl-high against the hedge; it floated 
towards him, nodding like a lantern, and a woman's voice said 
*T thought you were never coming." 

Timothy could now see the moisture of the night glistening 
on Miss Cross's hair. He apologised, 'T had no idea you were 
waiting for me," he said. 

'T wasn't sure of the way," she answered mournfully, *'and 
believe it or not, I don't like walking down these country roads 
at night, all by myself. I expect you think me a fool." 

"Not at all," said Timothy. "I shall be only too glad to 
-escort you. Do we go the same way?" 

''There's only one way really, is there?" she said. Something 
in this remark struck Timothy as inconsistent, but she did not 
give him time to analyse it. *'I live just beyond the Green. . . . 
Will that be taking you too far?" 

''Only a few steps," Timothy said, "My house is practically 
on the Green." 

"The house with the gravel-sweep?" 

"How did you know?" 

"I guessed. It's the kind of house you would have." 

"Oh, there are plenty of nicer houses, tucked away behind 
walls and trees." 

"You mean belonging to those old fossils we saw tonight. The 
ones we were talking about, who won't let you use your boat." 

"Oh, perhaps they will some day." Timothy tried to sound 
philosophic. 

"Not if you give way to them. They're like Hitler. I believe 
you're an appeaser at heart." 

"Well, one doesn't want to make trouble." 

"Not make trouble? Do you know you sound rather smug? 
If we'd been afraid of making trouble we shouldn't have stood 
up to Hitler." 



THE BOAT 



93 



''I suppose not, but the cases aren't quite parallel." 

''Why not? You seem to be taking their side. You're afraid of 
offending them. You're a doormat. You don't really care 
whether they let you use the boat or not." 

"Oh yes, I do, desperately." 

'*I don't believe you for a moment." She studied Timothy as 
though she was looking for another weak spot. "But why? 
Why are you so keen on it? Is it to keep yourself fit?" 

"Yes, in a way," said Timothy. 

"But fit for what?" 

Timothy hesitated. Not for the first time he asked himself 
why he was so set on having the boat. But no one had ever 
asked him before. 

"The moment I get on to the water — " he began. 

"Yes, what happens then?" 

"Well, I feel different," said Timothy lamely. 

"How? And why should you want to feel different?" 

"Well, doesn't one want to?" 

"Perhaps. But go on." 

"It's a feeling of release, of going with the stream." 

"Even if you're going against it?" 

"Yes, there's something in the motion, I suppose, gliding — - 
no friction, no jolts. And then the reflections, which are so 
clear and still, and shadows under the boughs — the soft, black 
depth — I like that. But doesn't all this bore you?" 

"No, why should it? I dare say I should feel the same thing 
myself. What I don't understand is why you aren't ready to 
fight for it." 

Timothy laughed. "Well, I can't go to war without allies." 

"But you have allies. You have us. We're only waiting for the 
word. We're tired of being high-hatted by all these stuffed 
shirts. Who do they think they are?" Her vehemence died 
away, like a gust that blows itself out; and into the silence stole 
another sound, a low continuous sussuration, hardly audible, 
as if Nature were turning restlessly or sighing in her sleep. 

"Listen!" said Miss Cross sharply. "Isn't that the river?" 

They stopped and peered. The fields were enveloped in a 
milky mist, in which floated hedges, trees, and bushes — blurs 
and blobs of varying opaqueness. The retaining wall of the 



94 THE BOAT 

valley, a vast concave at the foot of which the river flowed, 
could just be seen, but not the river itself. 

''Ugh!" Miss Cross shuddered. ''How could you? Do you 
think that's where the what-you-call-it, the Devil's Staircase is?" 

"I never heard of it till tonight," said Timothy. 

"Well, let's make a plan. Do you ever go out in the 
evenings?" 

Timothy said he had nowhere to go. 

"Poor fellow, you must be lonely, aren't you?" 

"Well, a bit." 

"We thought you must be, but we didn't know if you pre^ 
ferred solitude. Some of us aren't unintelligent, you know, and 
everyone's crazy to meet you." 

"I can't beUeve that." 

"Of course they are. You're much too modest. You under- 
rate yourself. Are you always like that?" 

"I've plenty to be modest about," said Timothy. 

"Ha! Ha! But you're wrong. I was reading one of your 
articles coming down in the train. Jolly good." 

"Oh, did you enjoy it?" 

"We all laughed our heads off. Tell me, who are Damaris 
and Chloe?" 

"That's a secret." 

"I said I didn't believe you had any girl-friends." 

"I conceal them." 

"I'm sure you're right to. They don't sound very intelligent." 

"I'm educating them." 

"Are they two tarts?" 

"Not at all, they are most respectable." 

"I don't believe they know how lucky they are. They sound 
rather dumb to me." 

"To tell you the truth, they are." 

"What a shame, when you take so much trouble with them. 
They don't know when they're well off. Do you get all that 
stuff out of a book, or do you know it already?" 

"Half and half, you know." 

"Do they ever read what you write?" 

"Oh dear, no. At least, I hope not." 

"You do make fun of them at times. Would you call yourself 



THE BOAT 95 

a satirist ?'' 

**I have been called a whimsical sentimentalist," said 
Timothy. 

"That's most unjust. The man who said that must have been 
a fool." 

**It was a woman, actually." 

'1 thought so. It must be heartbreaking, writing for such 
half-wits. Are you always getting fan letters?" 

"As a matter of fact, I do get a few." 

"I bet you do. Any from this district?" 

"I don't think anyone reads me here, but you — and Miss 
Chadwick, but she's not one of my fans." 

"She ought to have her brains tested. You're thrown away on 
this place." 

In spite of himself Timothy began to wonder if he wasn't. 
They walked in silence for a time, under the trees that soared 
into the clear sky above the mist. The moon was behind them, 
and Timothy suddenly saw their shadows on the road, 
advancing side by side with an air of intimacy that made the 
night seem much less lonely. The contrast between their 
silhouettes intrigued him. Hers took the shape of a tea-cosy or a 
bee-hive, whereas his resembled a tomb-stone with an urn on it. 
Turning to her, he saw her flowing hair, blanched by the moon- 
light, bright against the black stuff of her coat. As at a signal, 
she too half turned; and the moonlight, leaving her hair in 
shadow, rested on her beautiful pensive profile, as downcast and 
withdrawn as that of a young nun. The sight pierced him with an 
unimaginable sweetness; in that moment she meant to him 
everything that her face so eloquently expressed. As if aware of 
the change in his thought of her she suddenly said, "Was I very 
rude just now?" 

"Rude?" he repeated. "When?" 

She half turned away. 

"I had to give that awful young man a lesson, hadn't I? But 
perhaps — " 

"He certainly deserved it," Timothy said warmly. 

"Oh, I don't know. Only he seemed so sure of himself, just 
because he was in uniform. He'd been bothering you, 
hadn't he?" 



96 



THE BOAT 



''He was rather monopolising me." 

''I could see that, and somehow it made me angry. They all 
did, sitting around with closed faces, trying to look like 
generals at a conference planning the next move. They're no use 
to anyone — " 

''I wouldn't quite say that." 

''Well, compared to you they're not. Even as soldiers they're 
hopelessly out-of-date. A man I know in the War Office told 
me that it's old dug-outs like them, rotting with antiquated 
notions, that may lose the war for us. They can't adapt them- 
selves to the new conditions. Well, I expect I made a fool of 
myself." 

"Oh no." 

"Sure? If I did, it was a good deal on your account. I saw red 
for a moment." 

"That was very generous of you." 

"No, it was just . . . impatience with stupidity, I suppose, 
and because you seemed so different to them. More dis- 
tinguished, though you don't give yourself airs. Anyhow, you 
didn't think me too awful?" 

"Of course not." 

"Because, darling — you don't mind me calling you darling, 
do you?" 

"I like it," said Timothy. 

"Because I should hate myself if you did." 

Timothy's heart began to beat hard. His footsteps dragged 
and faltered. Into his mind leapt a score of questions that 
could not be uttered. He did not know where to look, and 
whatever his eyes lighted on seemed transformed and un- 
recognisable. The shape and meanings of a new life began to 
steal across his consciousness ; layer upon layer of feeling that 
had been pressed down and dried and buried began to stir and 
throb. 

"You didn't mind my saying that?" she said. 

For answer he slipped his hand into hers, which did not 
fail to return its pressure, and so they walked for a moment, 
hand in hand, until a radiance stronger than the moonlight, 
diffused mistily on the trees in front, showed them their sil- 
houettes lovingly interlaced. Involuntarily Timothy pulled Miss 



THE BOAT 97 

Cross on to the grass verge and dropped her hand. But when the 
car, which was travelUng at a snail's pace, had gone by, he took 
her hand again, as if by right, and held it until the Green, with 
its fringe of Lombardy poplars, opened out before them. Not 
a gleam of light came from any of the houses ; and he would 
not ask her which was hers, counting each one they came to as a 
condemned man might count the minutes to his death. At last 
she stopped. 

*'I shall see you again?" he murmured. 

"Why not?" 

He looked at the house, a small one with a window on each 
side of the door, and three above. 

''When?" 

"You'll be coming to the Fisherman's Arms?" 

"Yes. When, tomorrow?" 

"Tomorrow would be perfect, darling." 

"It seems such a long time to wait. You couldn't come on to 
my house now, and have a drink?" 

"I'm afraid not. Frances will be wondering what's happened 
to me." 

Something has happened to me, Timothy thought. "To- 
morrow there'll be so many people," he said. 

"But I want you to meet them. You'll like Frances, she's a 
splendid girl, absolutely super." 

"I'm sure she is. But it's you I want to see." 

"You seem to be very fond of me all of a sudden, darling." 

"Well . . . yes . . . I . . . May I call you by your Christian 
name?" 

"I was hoping you would." 

"What is it?" 

"Vera." 

"Vera — what a lovely name. It means true — but of course, 
you knew that." 

"Yes, somebody told me once." She looked sad and 
thoughtful. 

"It suits you, you know. You're not afraid to speak vour 
mind." 

"Meaning I can be damned rude?" 

"Oh no — just outspoken. I like it — one knows where one is 



98 THE BOAT 

with you. With some people one is never sure." 

''Why do you say 'one' and not T?" 

"Oh, just a way of talking, I suppose." How bracing her 
sincerity is, Timothy thought. 

"It sounds as if you were trying to hide behind someone. 
Say 'I know where I am with you. Vera."' 

"I know where I am with you. Vera." 

"That's much better. I don't like talking to 'one,' but I do 
like talking to you." 

"I wish we didn't have to stop." 

"I'm afraid we must. Talk's rationed tonight, worse luck." 

"There's just one thing you haven't said," said Timothy 
suddenly. 

"What's that, darling? I thought I'd said all there was to 
say. What have I forgotten?" 

"My name." 

"Timothy." 

"How did you know?" 

"Everyone knows." 

"Say it again." 

"I don't know that I will. I'm not sure it suits you." 

"Oh Vera, try to think it does." 

"All right, Timothy." 

He took her hand again with some vague idea of saying 
goodbye ; but the hand had a message of its own which would 
not wait, and his lips obeyed it long before Timothy had time to 
say them nay. Kissing her he forgot her ; when it was over and 
memory came back, she was still there for him to kiss again. 

"Verochka!" 

She gave him an awakening smile. "I didn't know you spoke 
Russian." 

"I don't — the word just slipped off my tongue." 

They both laughed and slowly drew away from each other 
with fond, wondering looks, as if the happiness they had given 
each other still lingered, a visible winged spirit in the air 
between them. 

"Tomorrow, then," he said, taking her hand again, but 
formally, as if it was her hand this time, not his. 

"Tomorrow, darling?" she repeated. 



THE BOAT 99 

'Tomorrow at the Fisherman's Arms." 

A soft cloud of distress settled on her face, blurring its 
outlines. 

"But Timothy, darling, I shan't be there!" she wailed. 

**Not there?" cried Timothy, stupefied. 

"No, darling, I'm going away at teeniest cock'Crow, and I 
don't know when I shall be back!" 

Such was the subject-matter of Timothy's projected letter. 
He wanted to ease his spirit of its burden, to lessen his pain by 
telling it, to put the episode of Vera's defection in a context of 
other happenings, other issues, where it might interest his mind 
instead of tormenting his emotions. Externalize, objectify, he 
told himself; and he had gone quite a long way before he laid 
down his pen, feeling that there was no one to whom he could 
send, no one who would have patience to read, such a pointless, 
unedifying story. Esther might appreciate his account of social 
life at Upton ; but her sympathies could not help being with the 
other side, the anti-boat faction, for by birth she belonged to 
it; also, she would feel that the whole episode, with the issues 
that it raised, was odd and peculiar and tainted with shirking. 
Had Timothy been defending his fishing-rights from the 
encroachments of a newcomer with a boat, she would certainly 
have backed him up. And well as he knew her, he couldn't tell 
her even the first thing about the parting at the gate. Tyro 
would sympathise with him there ; but Tyro was soured about 
women, as about so much else; at the best they were in- 
different, at the worst they were hostile, to the Moral Law. 
Tyro would not look at the case on its merits, as something that 
had happened to Timothy ; he would universalize it, and make 
of Timothy's afternoon out the text for a sermon on the 
depravity of mankind, and Timothy, as the protagonist, would 
not wholly escape censure. Magda was his best choice; Magda 
had not the smallest prejudice against men who kissed and 
told; she expected it of them and said she liked cads; he could 
tell her what had happened at Miss Cross's gate down to the 
last detail — not that there was much to tell; too little perhaps; 
he might have to embroider it to make it seem worthwhile. 
But the party at the Rectory would bore her even more in a letter 



100 THE BOAT 

than it would have in life; all this bourgeois bunkum would 
remind her that society should be classless and amorous. On 
the other hand she sympathised with his longing for the boat — 
not because she understood what it meant to him, but because 
she felt it was withheld from him by the power of Privilege. 
Vera, too, had sympathised with him. . . . 

As the thought of her pierced his defences his wound bled 
afresh. Forty^eight hours had passed since they had said good- 
bye. He did not very well remember what had happened; he 
had made a kind of scene, he had reproached her and asked her 
what she meant by — by what? Leaving him? But he had only 
spent an hour in her company and for some of that time he had 
— was it possible? — almost disliked her. Letting him kiss 
her? But that was his idea, not hers. Breaking her promise to 
meet him at the Fisherman's Arms ? But she had never said she 
would — "darling, I never told you I was going to be there!" 

And trying to recall their conversation he couldn't remember 
that she ever had. In his eagerness to see her again, he must 
have put the words into her mouth. Yet, as step by step, and 
over again, he retraced their walk, he could not banish the 
impression that she had somehow cheated him. Was it for a 
joke, just to see how he looked under the smart of 
disappointment? If so, it was quite a good joke; Timothy, a 
joke-monger himself, laughed at it wanly. Or perhaps it was a 
joke on the part of Destiny, a scherzo of some Ironic Spirit? 
In that case he need not think himself a fool, or her a — well, 
there were several Anglo-Saxon as well as Greek words for 
sirens who led trusting middle-aged men up the garden path. 

But rationalize her behaviour as he would, the pain returned. 
He simply couldn't bear the thought of going to the place where 
she should have been but was not, and be among faces which 
should have included hers, but did not. Yet strangely enough 
on the morrow, when night fell, he had taken advantage of the 
darkness to hang about the entrance to the Fisherman's Arms. 
Every now and then the door opened furtively to let a customer 
out or in, revealing, behind the black-out curtain draped across 
the doorway, a gleam of light and an elbow lifted in good cheer, 
but nothing else. Also, both today and yesterday, he had 
yielded to an impulse to walk as far as The Nook (daylight 



THE BOAT 101 

confirmed that this was the name of the house where Vera had 
stayed). It was something between a cottage and a villa, without 
the picturesqueness of the one or the smartness of the other; 
but it might have been Hampton Court from the way he stared 
at it. 

All this could not be put on paper, but some of it could be 
told, and perhaps most easily told to Magda. Pushing away the 
piled up sheets he took a new one. 

''Dearest Magda," he wrote. 

''Upton is absolute heaven at this moment — the finest 
winter landscape you ever saw. And though you might not 
believe it, there are some quite pretty faces among the villagers, 
and some really presentable clothes — but more of that later. 
Dy try to come here next weekend. I've so much to tell 
you " 

The door opened. So strong was his evocation of Magda, so 
convinced was he that his wish to see her would bring her, that 
he half expected to see her small, distinguished head framed in 
the opening. But it was Effie, coming to draw the curtains. 

"Oh Effie," he exclaimed, almost happily. "I'm hoping to 
have a friend here next Saturday — Mrs. Magda Vivien." 

"The Society Woman?" 

Efiie was evidently a student of the picture papers. 

"You might call her that, but it doesn't really describe her, 
she's interested in society with a small 's,' you know, and in . . . 
in . . . improving conditions for everyone." 

Effie did not answer for a moment; she seemed to wilt, 
corkscrew fashion ; a spiral of distaste ran up her. 

"Beattie says she can't manage if you have guests." 

Timothy felt dashed, but only for a moment. 

"Oh, I'm sure she doesn't mean that," he assured the 
shrinking housemaid. 

Effie gazed at him blankly and drew a sharp breath between 
her teeth. 

"I don't know what we shall do, I'm sure I don't," she 
muttered lugubriously as she turned away. 

Timothy finished his letter in a less sanguine frame of mind, 



102 , THE BOAT 

but he might have saved himself the trouble of writing and 
Effie and Beatrice their dread of an expected visitor ; for Magda 
replied, in a very kind letter, that the Curzon Street Cell held 
its meetings on Sundays and for the present she was unable to 
get away. 



THE BOAT 103 



CHAPTER IX 

''Good morning, sir," said Wimbush. 

"Good morning," said Timothy, who for the first time that 
year had come out without his overcoat. ''It really is a good 
morning. Isn't that a primrose?" 

"You're right," said Wimbush. "You're quite right, if I may 
say so, sir. But that little chap'll be sorry he poked his head out 
so soon before many days are over." 

"Oh, don't say that, Wimbush." 

"Well, I always say the first to come is the first to go. You've 
been with us now a matter of four months, sir." 

"It seems longer." 

"Well, sir, to a gentleman like you the time do drag, I expect. 
We working chaps has hardly time to count the days." 

"I know you're always busy, but so am I, in a way." 

"That's what I always say, sir, when folk speak of you as a 
gentleman of leisure. Gentleman, yes, you'd have to go a long 
way to find a better gentleman, but leisure, no. Why there's 
more than one in the house don't work half as hard as you do, 
mentioning no names." 

The field of conjecture was not wide. Timothy knew whom 
he meant. With an effort he refrained from encouraging 
Wimbush's wish to gossip, but the gardener did not need 
encouragement. 

"I've known a good many cooks," he said, "and to tell you 
the truth, sir, I don't go much on them. I wouldn't dirt>^ my 
hands by touching one." He spread out his large grimy paws 
which no amount of handling cooks could have made dirtier. 
Looking severely at Timothy, he added, "and when I say touch, 
sir, I must ask you not to misunderstand me. I speak in a moral 
spirit. They're a race that are no good to us gardeners. In my 
opinion, the world would be a better place if there wasn't a 
single cook left in it." 

"That's rather sweeping, Wimbush." 

"'Tisn't, sir, not if you knew them women as I do. There's 



104 THE BOAT 

not an ounce of good in any of them. Take the one here, for 
instance, that they call Beattie." 

Timothy's look forbade him to take Beattie, but the gardener 
ignored it and went on. 

''She's a sour-faced old so-and-so if ever there was one. I 
can't do nothing to please her, nor I can, and I wouldn't try 
if I could. And she can't keep her tongue off other people's 
business. She'd pry on her own mother going to the privy, she 
would, sir — no mistake. Now Effie here, she's a good girl." 

*'Oh, you like Effie?" exclaimed Timothy, relieved at the 
turn the conversation had taken. 

''When I say 'like,' sir," repeated the gardener, reprovingly, 
"I wouldn't quite say I like her, that wouldn't be right, would it, 
and her's a single girl and me a married man. No, I don't say I 
like her, but I can put up with her, oh yes." 

"I'm glad of that," said Timothy, always pleased to envisage 
harmony in his domestic arrangements. 

"She's a girl that I wouldn't mind bringing into the presence 
of Mrs. Wimbush, except the ladies, sir, they never can get on." 
He winked a tawny, leonine eye at Timothy. 

"I have noticed that some of the nicest women seem, well, a 
little on their guard with each other," said Timothy. 

"Bless you, sir, they're all the same." Wimbush smiled 
complacently, squared his shoulders and expanded his broad 
chest. '"Tis only human nature after all, and where should 
we be if they weren't jealous? I mean, the race has to carry on." 

Timothy agreed that this was so, and asked Wimbush about 
his family. 

"The eldest boy, sir, he'll soon be old enough to go. He have 
tried twice at the recruiting office already, and they've turned 
him down for being under age. They said they'd do something 
to him if he tried again, pretending he was older than he was. 
He's the kind we want, but now he's gardener's boy at Captain 
Sturrock's. They think the world of him, there." 

"I'm sure they do," said Timothy warmly, though he felt 
something stiffen in him at the name of Captain Sturrock. 
"And you, Wimbush, I hope you're comfortable here?" 

"As happy as a sandboy, sir, except for the other one in the 
kitchen. But then none of us last for ever." 



THE BOAT 105 

''No," said Timothy dubiously, and he was going to say 
something in Beatrice's defence when a piercing blast on a 
whistle cut him short. Instantly Wimbush put on a business- 
like air, rubbed his hands down his trousers as though clearing 
them for action, drew a long purposeful breath, apologised to 
Timothy for taking up his time, and murmuring something 
about ' 'weeds won't wait" strode on to the flower bed. Timothy 
called after him. "But wasn't that the signal for your elevenses?" 

Wimbush put his hand to his ear. 

"Your lunch!" shouted Timothy. 

Still looking invincibly hard of hearing, Wimbush returned 
from the flower-bed. 

"Sir?" 

"I think that whistle was a call to the cook-house door." 

Comprehension dawned on Wimbush and he laughed loudly. 
"You know more about us than we do ourselves, sir. Well, I 
suppose I must go, mustn't I?" 

He saluted Timothy and with a slight swagger moved off 
towards the house. Timothy hesitated a moment and stumbled 
down the grass slope, crossed the lawn which was beginning to 
look greener, and followed the cinder path to the clump of sere 
and ever-rustling bamboos that guarded the boat-house. The 
magic of the place, its numinous exhalation, came out to meet 
him, like a breath of sanctity from a shrine. The door had a 
key which he always carried with him; not that anyone was 
likely to steal the boat, but Timothy enjoyed the formal, 
ceremonial entry. There, in the dim religious light, the prostrate 
god was lying, its outriggers, extended like arms, reaching 
almost from one side of the narrow dock to the other. Steps 
went down to it, disappearing into the water. The river had 
risen, perhaps the springs were breaking, and today the boat 
floated higher than he had ever seen it. Transoms of blue and 
orange light from the oblong stained glass borders of the 
windows fell across it — across the teak, the mahogany, the 
many different kinds of wood of w^hich, so the boat-builder had 
assured him, it was made. The water chuckled softly and the 
boat nodded, as if in agreement. It had the air of waiting for 
something. For what? For sacrifice, perhaps. Yes, yes, the 
beckoning fair one seemed to say; come with me, cast off, lower 



106 THE BOAT 

away, forget whatever it is that holds you back. The lure of the 
invitation grew stronger and Timothy could feel it tugging at his 
will. Involuntarily he glanced behind him; the slender, blue- 
bladed sculls were hanging on the wall, ready to his hand. He 
lifted one from the rests on which it lay ; holding it at the point 
of balance, he scarcely felt its weight. A thrill went through him, 
almost a shiver; worlds were his to conquer, continents to 
explore. Light, the light of day, shone through the crack 
between the two doors that opened on the channel to the river. 

Carefully he replaced the scull, trembling as if he had been 
exposed to some great temptation, and felt his spirit brace itself 
to bear its accustomed load, heavy, disappointed, but at peace. 
A sour-sweet reek of the river, which he had not noticed 
before, seemed to invade the boat-house; dark, fat gobs of 
slime coated the water-line, and the walls, now that he could see 
them better, were furred with mould and mildew, growing in 
tufts like hair on an old man's chest. This new manifestation of 
the god disturbed him, and without looking back he tiptoed 
softly from the boat-house. 

Outside, the gentle air and the warm spring sunshine wooed 
him to prolong his stroll. Following the inward-curving line 
of the shrubbery which looked from the house like an ostrich 
feather lying across the lawn, his footsteps again took him 
towards the river. At the end of the shrubbery the river came 
into view, but still divided from him by another stretch of 
grass, a tiny water-meadow, now flooded. Timothy stopped at 
the edge of this miniature inundation. The turf beneath looked 
pale and pearly; here and there an island, perhaps an ant-hill, 
stuck out, crowned with tall grasses in a ragged cluster. The 
flood water was motionless; beyond it, where the submerged 
bank showed almost black the river hurried by, purposeful, 
glinting, crinkling with a thousand dissolving smiles. Here came 
a branch, quite a big one. Some unseen obstacle near the edge 
becalmed it. Released, it slid away sideways, to be caught in a 
mimic whirlpool and spun round and round. Then after a 
fidgety progress, all stops and starts, it was drawn with seeming 
reluctance towards the middle. Gradually it responded to the 
power of the current and shedding all resistance, with no pace 
of its own, only the impulse of the water round it, it glided 



THE BOAT 107 

swiftly past him to vanish round the bend. Timothy felt glad 
for it, as if it had achieved a liberation. After it had gone by his 
miind followed it, swinging down the potent centre of the 
stream. 

He waited for another branch to come along so that he could 
watch its progress; but none came, and he lifted his eyes to the 
pinkish rocks opposite, now aglow in the sunlight, and to 
the mountains beyond them, on whose ridges no longer lay the 
creamy, mist-laden covering of snow, that, while it lasted, had 
effaced the skyline and brought heaven and earth together. 

Beatrice was sitting at the kitchen table. Fragments of type- 
written paper, some flat, some curled like shavings, were spread 
out in front of her, as tantalizing as the pieces of a jig-saw puzzle. 
As she was fitting them together (an easy task, for the letter 
had not been effectively torn up) she said: 

"I shouldn't have done it, of course, only I saw the word 
'immoral' and then I knew I ought to. Look, here it is again, 
'immorality,' and here again, 'morality,' but that's just the same, 
isn't it? People ought not to write such letters, nor they ought, 
there ought to be a law against it, and there is, too. And 
against receiving them as well, I daresay, for the receiver is just 
as bad as the other one in the eyes of the law. "Offence," they 
call it. I always thought Mr. Casson was up to no good, taking 
us for motor-drives and all that. And if I read this it may tell us 
what he is up to, and put us on our guard. I'm doing it for your 
sake, really, EfHe. I can look after myself." 

Effie came back from putting a kettle on the kitchen range. 
"I'm not saying no, Beattie, though I think you're wasting your 
time. If it's anyone it's that Miss Cross, but she's gone now and 
a good job, too. Why, dozens of people saw them in the lane 
together. And he had his arm right round her, too. I don't 
know how he could." 

"That's just what I'm saying. If he'll do it with one he'll do it 
with another, just you wait, my girl. Now there's a bit here. 
'Morality' (but it's the same thing really, you can't have one 
without the other) 'like civilisation and like art and like every- 
thing worth-while, is middle class in origin, and will perish, is 
perishing, with the middle classes. The lower classes, some of 



108 THE BOAT 

them, have moral reactions, they know what to say when a man 
runs away with another man's wife; but they have no moral 
sense, I mean they wouldn't know when a man was justified in 
doing it and when he wasn't. The upper classes' — it breaks off 
there, I must find the next bit. It's a blessing he only writes on 
one side of the paper. But just think of it, Effie ! What did I tell 
you ? He says a man might be doing right to run off with another 
man's wife. Who's he thinking of, I'd like to know? Miss 
Cross, I shouldn't wonder." 

''Miss Cross isn't married, silly." 

''She may be, for all you know. And lower classes! I'd like to 
give him lower classes. Who does he think he is, anyway? Or 
Mr. Casson, either? A foreigner that nobody knows anything 
about. Oh here's the next bit. It isn't very interesting. He just 
says the upper classes are a law unto themselves." 

"I don't know why you want to read the letter at all. It's 
only two people writing to each other." 

"Don't you want to hear any more?" 

"Only if it's a bit exciting." 

"Oh, but listen. 'The woman you told me about sounds like 
a' — wait a moment — 'bitch to me.'" 

"Bitch to me?" 

"You heard what I said." 

Beatrice and Effie exchanged horrified glances. 

"There you are, you see! He says bitch. That's the sort of 
man he is." 

"Which of them?" 

"Well, both. Now I'm going on. 'And I think you'd do much 
better to stick to your' — I can't pronounce these names — 
'Damn Arris and Coaly.'" 

"Who on earth are they? His girl-friends, I suppose. Oh 
Beattie, do dry up, the kettle's nearly on the boil." 

"Listen to this bit. 'No doubt, if a seduction is what you want, 
either of these nymphs would only be too glad to oblige, in the 
convenient shelter of one of the abbeys or castles which you 
have been describing so eloquently in your recent articles.' " 

There was a pause, and a silence broken only by the singing 
of the kettle. 

"Effie, he does mean us! We must give in our notice today." 



THE BOAT 109 

''I shouldn't pay any attention. I shouldn't lower myself. 
Whoever wrote that letter is potty. Who is it? I bet it's a 
woman." 

Beatrice searched among the pieces. 

**I can't find a name anywhere. Oh, here's something. 'It 
makes me so angry to think you are being prevented from using 
your boat by the . . . the embattled prejudice and ignorance of 
the countryside. It's that sort of thing that makes one despair 
of human nature. I've no objection to Colonels or even Majors 
as such: it's their selfishness I mind. Money doesn't matter, 
it's the morals of the people who have it. They know how they 
ought to behave, for they have the Law and the Prophets ; but 
they won't listen, they do what they know to be wrong, as the 
house-agent did, when he told you you could use the boat, 
knowing full well you couldn't. This petty cheating is every- 
where and it makes me sick.' He seems to be preaching here, 
doesn't he, Effie? It must be a man." 

*'If so, he sounds potty." 

Beatrice rummaged among the fragments. 

''What a nuisance, I seem to be getting the same bit over and 
over again. Oh no, it isn't, it just begins the same. 'It makes me 
so angry — " 

''He's always angry, isn't he?" said EfHe languidly. "He ought 
to use something sticky to keep his hair on." She tittered, and 
Beatrice joined in, but perfunctorily, for she wanted to keep the 
stage. '"It makes me so angry the way the Government' — we 
don't want to hear about the Government, do we ? We hear too 
much about it on the wireless. Here's another bit. 'The State is 
the great enemy. Not the Germans, not the Nazis, but the State 
in every country, especially in our own. The State is an im- 
moral institution, designed to encourage and to perpetuate 
immorality. If an individual acted as the States does, he would 
be hanged before nightfall. The State is a criminal, and uses its 
sovereignty to make criminals of all its members.' He ciidn't 
ought to say that, did he, it's treachery, he could be shot for 
saying that." 

"Oh, I don't suppose they'd bother with him," said EfHe 
indifferently. "There, the kettle's beginning to bubble -we 
must blow the whistle." 



110 THE BOAT 

''What, for him? He can starve for all I care." 

Nonchalant but purposeful, Efiie sidled up to a nail in the 
wall, from which hung various keys, and, attached to an exciting 
white lanyard, the associative effect of which was so strong that 
it seemed to turn the kitchen into a police station, an authentic, 
silver'bright policeman's whistle. Effie opened the door and 
blew a long, earsplitting blast. Beatrice took no notice except to 
raise her shoulders. Her hands were moving about the table 
with gathering speed, like a patience player's who sees the game 
at last coming out. 

"I've got it," she cried triumphantly, **all the last four pages, 
though from the way he ends up, I don't think you could tell 
if he's a man." 

Four closely-typed sheets of foolscap lay before her, veined 
and marbled. They did not lie quite flat, so she ran the rolling 
pin over them before she began to read. 

''Human nature has now reached a new low level and it will 
never be any better until it repents in a proper, old-fashioned 
way, in sackcloth and ashes. But it won't; in war the greatest 
devil is the greatest hero ; the mob idolizes suffering for its own 
sake, and doesn't care a rap where it may be leading. Before the 
last war my faith in humanity was just as strong as yours, and I 
used to proclaim it, which was more than you did ; then it was 
shaken, now it is dead. We do know about the concentration 
camps; we don't know what the nations have got up their 
sleeves in the way of bombs and gas: but merely to have 
thought of using such things puts them, for me, outside the 
pale. If I'd committed a murder and been let off, you'd have 
said 'Poor old Tyro, it was all a mistake, he didn't mean it,' and 
have gone on asking me to tea. But if I'd done it again even you 
would have said 'Poor Tyro, he's gone a bit too far this time. 
I'm afraid I must cross him off my visiting-list.' That's how I feel 
about the H.R. after this second orgy of mass-murder. How can 
you regard a race of creatures as even remotely well-meaning, 
whose strongest impulse is to kill each other ? Of all the thou- 
sands of created animals there are only half a dozen, among 
whom we take pride of place, who kill their own species except 
from motives of sex. And the rest only kill from hunger or in 
self-defence — unless, like dogs, they have been corruoted by 



THE BOAT HI 

association with us. Yet we pretend to be shocked by Nature, 
and call it red in tooth and claw. What humbug ! 

''It's the humbug I mind more than anything. Apologists of 
the H.R. call it self-deception, a kinder term, but it convicts 
them of moral idiocy. If I told you I smoked in order to benefit 
the Imperial Tobacco Company you wouldn't believe me; 
nor should I believe you if you told me you dropped a bomb on 
a town full of women and children in order to improve their 
standard of values. And if there's one thing I hate, it's the kind 
of mysticism that pretends that one purges one's spirit by doing 
something one knows to be wrong, and that criminals are 
somehow especially pleasing to God because, having disobeyed 
His every law, they can plead no virtue of their own (which 
might look like spiritual pride) but must throw themselves 
utterly on his mercy. Salvation by degradation. Nothing in my 
hand I bring. We cannot plead our own merits, of course ; but 
it is quite another thing to bring hands dripping with blood, as 
though God had no attribute except forgiveness, and would 
somehow be offended by the spectacle of virtue in human 
behaviour, since it would give Him less opportunity to exercise 
the quality of mercy." 

A shadow crossed the window, but Beatrice did not notice it, 
so absorbed was she by the effort of reading; and Effie, though 
she was only half listening to the words, was too much fas- 
cinated by the sound of Beatrice's voice, and the B.B.C. 
intonations which kept creeping into it, to see the shape go by 
the window, or hear the click of the lifted latch as Wimbush 
entered the kitchen. 

*'But we do take pride in our sufferings, and when we rejoice 
in our victories (if we get them) we shall equally be rejoicing in 
the sufferings of others, unless we can persuade ourselves that 
our victories entail no suffering to the vanquished, as we are 
quite capable of doing. We praise a man for dying for his 
country ; we don't praise him for killing for it, though it would 
be more logical to do so, since a soldier's first duty is to take 
life, not lose it. 

''And what hypocrisy, in this age of conscription, to talk ot 
giving one's life for one's country. One might just as well 
talk of giving one's money to the Tax Collector. Both are 



112 THE BOAT 

taken from us by compulsion, in the name of the State ; and the 
descendants of Hampden — who refused the King's demand for 
ship money because he did not happen to live by the sea, and 
resented the billeting of soldiers — meekly submit to exactions 
ten times greater than those for which Charles I lost his head. 
They thought themselves so clever for showing the sovereigns 
of Europe that a King's neck had a bend in it. Little did they 
dream, poor boobs, that they were exchanging one frail spinal 
column, which could so easily be severed, for the bull necks of 
millions of electors whose thick heads no amount of headsmen 
could cut off, more's the pity. We are all our own tyrants now. 

''The modern world has legalized bloodshed and practised it 
on a scale never imagined before, all the while proclaiming 
from its pulpits and soap-boxes that God is Love. What 
blasphemy! And how lonely it makes one, to have a moral 
standard even a shade higher than one's fellows! I watch them 
sitting in the tram that takes me to work, their noses buried in 
the latest murder — yes, Timothy, even in this war in which 
millions may lose their lives, a murder is still front-page news — 
and I thank God I am not as they are, who have no thought, no 
existence beyond their blood-lust. Can you explain it, this itch 
to kill, to see the bright blood flowing, or not even to see it, to 
hear of it at second or third hand, to be able to gloat over it 
however remotely, and sniff its odour through the printer's ink? 

"No, you can't, because you're not made that way, and 
if ever I quarrel with you, which Heaven forbid, it will be 
because you are a humanist, as I once was, and believe that man 
is his own moral criterion, and there is no appeal from what 
man does to a higher tribunal, a standard of transcendental 
morality. A little patience, a little forbearance, a little under- 
standing, a little laughter, gentle laughter (forgive me Timothy) 
and all will be well. I seem to hear you say that, and it makes me 
angry. Patience has had her perfect work ; forgiveness has been 
unto seventy-times seven ; forbearance has died of constipation ; 
laughter has split its sides; but all is not well, and the human 
race still yearns for homicide. Morality was made for man 
(you were once reported as saying) not man for morality. 
Forgive me, my dear friend, but that is dangerous nonsense. 
What is man without morals ? A wolf, we say, insulting a noble 



THE BOAT 113 

animal. A devil? No, for devils have no experience of God. A 
human being without morals is a thing that wants a name, a 
curse too great for thought to conceive or words to utter. But 
what is morality without man? Rank upon rank, tier upon tier 
the blameless vegetation rises, a sampler of infinite majesty 
worked by a master^hand; and on every terrace the animals — 
when not engaged in little tiffs or personal encounters, involving 
no one but themselves — a display of heraldic valour lending 
quaintness to the scene — move or sleep in the nobility of their 
unspoilt natures, not desiring more blood than will last them 
from one meal to the next, or ensure them a faithful wife and 
healthy children. The sampler does not depict a Golden Age; 
far from it. Earth has scenes far lovelier than these terraces, 
animals far kinder than the round-eyed lions and whiskered 
leopards that frolic on them, nobler trees, brighter flowers. 
Why then does it seem a paradise? Because natural laws have 
limited malevolence; because blood-letting has its off-seasons, 
like any other activity: because Man is not there. 

*'But look! Strain your eyes! Surely behind that feather- 
tufted palm-tree lurks a sportsman with a rifle? In the heart of 
that hedgehog-pointing shrub is there not a soldier with his 
finger on the trigger of a Bren gun? Are there not men with 
knives and tomahawks lining the rushes where the stream goes 
by? Yes, and where they wash their excremental fingers, fouled 
by the viscera of the victims, the river runs with blood. 

''Excuse this outburst, but my insteps ache when I see the 
harm the human race has done and is doing and will do, and all 
the while snivelling about its sufferings as if it had anyone to 
blame except itself. And even with you, dear Timothy, I could 
pick a quarrel for you refuse to see your neighbours as they are 
— a parcel of purse-proud provincial nonentities, who for some 
inexplicable reason have warned you off their precious river. 
You say you would like them if you could get to know them ; 
believe me, you wouldn't, they would bore you to tears, and 
horrify you with their various forms of blood-lust. How one 
mouths and maunders, talking of the brutes ; the one word that 
would annihilate them for ever escapes one, and one is left, a 
middle-aged cosmopolitan with a living to earn, snarling at their 
heels. 



114 THE BOAT 

*'I should not write to you like this unless I was absolutely 
devoted to you and so thankful you had not mixed yourself 
with this silly bloody business that Europe is plunging into. 
Keep yourself to yourself, my dear Timothy ; as your excellent 
servants seem determined you shall. How wise they are to for- 
bid you to have guests — though in spite of that I should try to 
come, for I adore giving trouble. I've studied the Bradshaw, but 
do you know by the time I've changed at Birkenhead and 
Chester and Birmingham and Gloucester, and got on to the 
one'class-only train to Swirrelsford and motored eight miles 
to Upton, I should only have ten minutes to embrace you and 
come back. Shall we ever meet again? I doubt it. 

Love and warnings from 
Yours affectionately, 

Tyro." 

Breathless, Beatrice paused. She took the steel pince-nez off 
the bridge of her powerful nose and laid them on the table. 

*'Do you know what I think?" she said. 

"I didn't know you did think." At the sound of Wimbush's 
voice both the women turned round in a flash. Beatrice was the 
first to speak. 

''Well, of all the nosy—!" 

"Oh, I'm nosy, am I?" said Wimbush moving ponderously 
into the room and dwarfing everything in it. ''And what are 
you, if I may ask?" 

But Beatrice was not to be intimidated. 

"Can't I read a letter from my friend without an outdoor 
servant in his dirty boots glueing his ear to the keyhole?" 

"You whistled for me, and I come in ordinary-like," said 
Wimbush mildly, "only you didn't hear, you was too busy 
reading Mr. Cassons's letter." 

"I like that," stormed Beatrice. '"Twasn't his letter, was it, 
Effie?" 

"Beattie has a friend who writes like that sometimes," said 
EfHe. "We think he's potty." 

"Then why's it all tore up?" inquired Wimbush. "And why 
does he call her Timothy? She's not a man, is she?" 

Efiie sniggered. 

"That's because he's potty. Well, we got a laugh." Her voice 



THE BOAT 115 

invited Wimbush to let the matter drop, and taking the hint, 
he said to Beatrice, ''You do have some funny people writing 
to you, I must say." 

Beatrice relaxed somewhat. 

"Yes, I tore the letter up because I didn't think anyone 
should see it. He used a rude word." 

*Two for the matter of that," remarked Wimbush. 

''Oh, which was the other one?" exclaimed Effie, and when 
Wimbush didn't answer she said languidly, ''Of course I'm 
broadminded but I don't like bitch said to a dog." 

"No," said Wimbush. "Like that it sounds funny, and he 
shouldn't have said it to Beattie, either." 

Beatrice was indignant. 

"He didn't say it to me. He said it of someone — well, Mr. 
Casson could tell you who." 

"What's Mr. Casson got to do with it?" asked Wimbush 
innocently. 

"Nothing, really, only a man like that knows that kind of 
woman." 

"I expect your friend has only heard about them," said 
Wimbush. 

"I tell him to be careful what he writes," said Beatrice, "that's 
why I tear his letters up. He's an educated man of course, and 
that accounts for a great deal." 

"They're always the worst," said Wimbush, winking at 
EfHe. "He sounds a bit of a Conchie to me." 

"I should say so!" exclaimed Beatrice. "I was only passing 
the remark to Effie just before you come creeping in that 
people like that oughtn't to be allowed out." 

"I thought he was a friend of yours," remarked Wimbush. 

Beatrice tried to cover her mistake. 

"Well, so he is, in a manner of speaking, but that don't mean 
I hold with what he says. Here, take your tea for goodness' 
sake. You'll be saying I let it get cold next." 

The cup looked white and frail in Wimbush's large brown 
fist, and his moustache dredged the red-brown liquid like a 
fishing net. To Effie, the tea, the eyes and the moustache all 
looked the same colour. Raising his head he said, "Don't 
think I'm crabbing your literary friend, Beattie, but I don't feel 



116 THE BOAT 

that way about war. When I was a youngster in the last war 
you couldn't hold me back, and that went for most of the chaps 
round here. Nor you can't hold back my eldest youngster, 
either. 'Tis in the blood, you can't stop it. War isn't a matter 
of wanting to kill people, like he says." 

*'He ought to be shot," said Beattie. "I was only saying so to 
Effie." 

*'Of course I wouldn't say such a thing of your friend, 
Beattie," said Wimbush rather pompously. ''And everyone 
must have their views. Mr. Casson now, he's a literary gentle- 
mian by all accounts, I wonder what he'd say to that letter." 

Beatrice struggled with herself and then said, ''Some of it's 
about him, as a matter of fact." 

"You don't say so! Well, personally I never hear nothing 
that wasn't meant for me, but perhaps he ought to be told." 

Beatrice's eyes opened in alarm. 

"You wouldn't go and tell him? It might be illegal." 

"Of course not," Wimbush soothed her. "Don't get all 
upset. When him and I talk, we talk about other things." 

"What do you talk about, Mr. Wimbush?" asked Effie, 
pertly. 

Wimbush turned right round to her, so that he seemed to 
address her with his whole broad person. 

"Well, your ears might have burnt this morning." 

"You didn't talk about me?" cried Effie, giving a little scream. 

"Oh no, we only said what a nice girl you were." 

Beatrice got up from the table where they had been sitting 
and began to move noisily about the room. 

"What did you say?" asked Effie. 

"Who's being nosy now? Do you think we mentioned the 
colour of your eyes?" 

Effie pouted. 

"He's not a bad old thing. But they don't like him in the 
village, do they ? The milkman was only saying to me yesterday, 
'Your boss don't seem to have many friends here.'" 

"That's all he knows. A college-trained gentleman like Mr. 
Casson doesn't go to the local like you or me." 

"Oh Mr. Wimbush you are a tease. Fancy seeing me at the 
local. Why I shouldn't know what to do." 



THE BOAT 117 

''You'd be a nice girl anywhere." 

"I'm glad your wife can't hear you." 

The gardener stiffened sUghtly. 

''Mrs. Wimbush wouldn't be interested, not within four 
square walls. She knows as well as I do," he added cryptically. 
"Besides, Seattle's about." 

"Yes, and wishes she wasn't," said Beatrice gruffly from the 
grate. "You should keep the other side of the door, that's your 
place. I suppose the garden minds itself while you sit talking 
here." 

"Do the potatoes boil any quicker because you're looking at 
them? They might, you look that hot and cross, doesn't she, 
Efiie? She looks real red." 

"Oh that's nothing unusual," said Effie, lightly. "She often 
looks that way." She meant to imply that Beatrice's moods were 
her own concern and not likely to be affected by anything that 
Wimbush might say; but Beatrice pushed past her without 
looking, and a moment later they heard the back door slam. 

Wimbush moved his chair nearer to Effie's. Leaning forward 
he slid his arm along the table until his hand and lifted fore- 
finger were only a few inches from her. 

"One place is as good as another, I say." 

Effie watched him fascinated, and his earthy, out'of-door 
smell, musty with tobacco and other less definable odours, 
enveloped her stiflingly, for she had a delicacy of perception 
amounting to hyperaesthesia. 

"I don't know what you mean," she said, but her body knew, 
and her breath came with difficulty. "It couldn't be here." 

"Why not?" said Wimbush. His teeth showed under the 
boskage of his moustache and his eyes seemed to tilt still 
further inwards. "You wouldn't say no, would you?" 

His voice that had grated harshly now cajoled her, so that 
the fences she was putting up against him toppled over. No 
longer could she translate the emotions that held her into terms 
of yes and no; her spirit bent like a weed in the current. 

Another bang announced the return of Beatrice. 

"You would'nt mind, Beattie, would you?" Wimbush asked 
of Beatrice's back. 

"What wouldn't I mind?" She did not turn round. 



118 THE BOAT 

''If I gave Effie here a kiss." 

*'Yes, I should," said Beatrice shortly. 

"Not if it was just in fun, under the mistletoe? I'll kiss you, 
too, if you like." 

''Now get on, be off," said Beatrice, angry, but keeping her 
head. "Effie's got her work to do, and so have I." 

"Oh, I never heard you talk of work before," said Wimbush 
pretending to be shocked. "Besides, a kiss doesn't take that 
long. 'Tisn't like a mustard plaster." 

Effie looked from one to the other as if her fate was being 
decided. Her face followed every movement of her feelings, 
whereas Beatrice's changed but little. She knew Wimbush 
wanted to make her angry and she felt her anger rising; but 
love lent cunning and sublety beyond the reach of her normal 
mind. So she said as carelessly as she could, "Oh, all right, but 
you must kiss me first." 

Wimbush hadn't expected her to say that; he was taken 
aback ; the initiative left him, and he got awkwardly to his feet 
with his indecision written on his face. Beatrice stepped up to 
him as bold as brass, a moving bastion, swelling with defensive 
contours. His hesitation was momentary, but it was fatal. Just 
as the second of two smacking kisses fell on Beatrice's firm 
cheek the door opened and Mrs. Burnett, the charwoman, 
came in. 

"Good gracious," she said. "Is this a love scene?" 

A small, active-looking woman, with quick eyes and reddish- 
golden hair, she switched her gaze with bird'like jerks from face 
to face. 

"We were having a sort of bet," growled Wimbush, heavily. 

"A bet — I like that," cried Beatrice. "He asked to kiss us 
both." She saw the dull red precursor of a blush stealing pain- 
fully into Wimbush's unaccustomed cheek, and looked her 
triumph. 

'"Twas only a joke," he mumbled. "Mrs. Burnett knows me 
better than that." 

Mrs. Burnett, a native Uptonian, was incUned to side with 
Wimbush; but though he was well-Uked in the village, his 
swagger had always been a subject of comment and criticism, 
and she couldn't resist the fun of seeing him mortified. There 



THE BOAT 119 

he Stood, stalwart but helpless and crestfallen, with his hands 
hanging down and his face, like the harvest moon, looking 
larger than its normal size; while around him surged waves of 
feminine scrutiny, three pairs of eyes, sharp, amused and 
critical, boring into the secret places of his male complacency. 

''He ought to kiss Effie and me, too, shouldn't he?" remarked 
Mrs. Burnett. 

''Don't say that, you'll make him shy," Beatrice taunted 
him. "He's forgotten how." 

Wimbush stood stock still, trying to think of a way of 
escaping from his predicament with dignity. 

"We know which of us he loves now, don't we?" Mrs. 
Burnett's voice was light and ironical. "He won't look at you 
and me, Effie, not while Beattie's there." 

"I can't think what's come over him," crowed Beatrice. 
"He was all agog a moment ago. Now he just hangs like an 
icicle." 

"Perhaps once was enough," said Wimbush, "and there's no 
more where that came from." But he put no spirit into the 
retort. 

"Come along, Mrs. Burnett," said Beatrice. Her triumph had 
made her jovial; she looked and felt quite unlike herself. "A 
good cup of tea's better than all his kisses. I've tried, and 
I know which I'd rather have, any day." 

She pursed her lips at him and raised her eyebrows and 
nodded once or twice to make her meaning clear. Wimbush 
had accepted his defeat, and was turning to go when suddenly 
Effie said, "I'll kiss him." 

There was passion in her face, surprise and delight in his, and 
their kiss was a real kiss that made its quality felt in every corner 
of the room. If a gun had gone off the change of atmosphere 
couldn't have been more startling and complete. For a second 
afterwards Wimbush held Effie's hand, almost as though they 
were actors taking a curtain call. She looked oblivious of her 
surroundings, he triumphantly aware of his. 

"Well, I never!" explained Mrs. Burnett. "There's no telling 
what women will do, is there, Beatrice? Now I'm the next." 

But Beatrice did not answer her. The anger that had receded 
from the shores of her mind rolled back in an overwhelming 



120 THE BOAT 

tide. ''Get away!" she shouted. "Clear out of my kitchen, all of 
you! Yes, and you, too!" she added, pointing at Effie as though 
unable to speak her name. ''You're the worst, leading him on!" 
The moment she was alone she burst into tears. 



THE BOAT 121 



CHAPTER X 

The wonderful summer of 1940 started in May; in the first week 
it was hot enough to bathe. Still anxious not to offend the 
deities of the river, Timothy made discreet inquiries of Wim- 
bush as to whether bathing might be considered an infringement 
of the fishing-rights. He fancied that as far as the middle the 
river belonged to him; but a stroke or two might easily take 
him into forbidden waters, to find, perhaps, impending over 
him an irate Colonel in full fishing panoply who might even 
hook him with a well-directed cast. . . . For Timothy was still 
ignorant of the niceties of fly-fishing. Indeed, there was no one 
to teach him; as a social unit in Upton, he seemed to have lost 
rather than gained ground since the abortive party at the 
Rectory. 

A second letter to Mrs. Lampard had met with the same fate 
as the first, and he felt like a spider in a wine-glass, unable to 
make headway on the hard slippery surface, but condemned to 
go on trying. It never occurred to him that in the end he might 
fail to get his way ; he felt that gradually his will was dissolving 
the bulwarks raised against it, and some day when he was least 
expecting it the permit would turn up. It was like being elected 
to a club; you waited months, years maybe, and then one 
morning the forces of resistance crumbled and in you walked. 
All the more did it behove him, meanwhile, to behave in a cir- 
cumspect manner, so that the rumour of his blameless, useful 
life, percolating through hall and cottage, would the more 
quickly bring him his reward. 

Wimbush replied indignantly that of course Timothy could 
bathe; it would do the fish good to stir them up a bit, they got 
that fat and sluggish lying there among the weeds. Mention of 
Timothy's riverine scruples and uncertainties always made 
Wimbush angry; but Timothy could get no practical advice, 
still less any moral ruling out of him. He would declare with 
equal vehemence that Timothy was the master here and could 
do what he liked; or diat die river was free for all; or that it 



122 THE BOAT 

was a damned shame that it was not; or that the fishermen 
would welcome any move that Timothy might make; or that 
they would do their utmost to hinder him, but what the hell 
did it matter? Obscurely he seemed to feel that his being in a 
temper somehow clarified the situation and made everything 
all right for Timothy, and Timothy found these gusts of 
temper on his behalf very comforting. 

But his mind was not quite at rest, and one morning, after 
first making sure of a specially delicious bathe, he sauntered 
back over the fragrant, sun-dried sward, which held all the 
freshness of spring and all the heat of summer. The twilight 
that reigned in the heart of the house, vowed to half-mourning 
as a result of the permanent black-out of the hall window and 
the fanlight, had depressed Timothy during the winter months. 
But today it was grateful to his eyes, almost blinded by the glare 
on the terrace, and the cool, black and white pavement seemed 
made for such a day as this. 

Feeling quite equal to a talk with Miss Chadwick, he dialled 
her number. 

**Oh yes, Mr. Casson, is there anything I can do for you?" 

*'Well, there was just a question I wanted to ask you." 

"Not about the boat, I hope?" 

**Oh no, I mean, not exactly. You haven't heard anything 
about it, by any chance?" 

**No, and I'm afraid you'll find the mayfly rather a formidable 
competitor." 

Timothy sighed. 

* 'You're still doing your best for me?" 

* 'Naturally, but I don't get much encouragement. There is a 
slight feeling ..." Miss Chadwick broke off. 

**Yes?" prompted Timothy. 

**I hardly know how to put it. . . . You have seen this 
morning's paper, of course?" 

'*I just glanced at it," said Timothy guiltily. 

"I'm afraid it merits more than a glance. Our friends here 
are very much alive to the danger, Mr. Casson." 

"Yes, indeed," muttered Timothy. 

"Well, forgive me for reminding you. . . . But you wanted 
to ask me something?" 



THE BOAT 123 

Shame quickly turns to annoyance, and Timothy suddenly 
felt annoyed. 

"Yes," he said defiantly. *'In the prospectus of the house, 
you may remember. Miss Chadwick, among the inducements 
held out, were boating and bathing on the river Swirrel. I have 
refrained from using my boat, out of consideration for the 
feelings of my neighbours. Do you suppose I ought to refrain 
from bathing, too?" 

After a pause. Miss Chadwick said, ''You sound as if you 
thought us unreasonable, Mr. Casson." 

''Not you. Miss Chadwick," said Timothy reassuringly. 
He still found great difficulty in making a nakedly hostile 
remark to anyone. "But as to the others . . . well ..." 

"Why do you ask me, if you have already made up your 
mind?" 

"I haven't, that is why I wanted your opinion." 

"Wouldn't it be simpler to ask, for instance. Colonel 
Harbord?" 

"You see, I don't know him." 

"I remember, you told me. What a pity that your boat has 
cut you off from so many interesting friendships. But perhaps, 
after all, he would think the question frivolous." 

"Are fishermen very serious-minded men, in your ex- 
perience?" 

"Surely you are aware of the difference between fishing and 
bathing?" 

"Aren't they both water-sports?" 

"Juliana Berners and Izaak Walton would not have 
thought so." 

Glad to be able to confront Miss Chadwick on the field of 
culture, Timothy said, "Juliana Berners wrote about angling, 
not fly-fishing. She was a lady of the court and ..." 

"Precisely. The two pastimes belong to very different 
worlds." 

"Isn't that rather a snobbish distinction?" 

"Good heavens, Mr. Casson, you're not a Communist, I 
hope? Somebody was asking me only yesterday. I said you were 
more probably a Fascist." 

"It was kind of you to defend me." 



124 THE BOAT , 

**Not at all. They were puzzled, I think, by seeing you with 
your servants somewhere in the neighbourhood of Dangerfield 
aerodrome." 

*'Oh yes, we were looking at the rather interesting 
barrows." 

'They must be intelligent girls. How lucky you are to have 
them. Servants are a bachelor's prerogative, nowadays. Weren't 
you a little near to the camp, perhaps?" 

''Nobody challenged us." 

"All the same, I believe there were inquiries. War-time 
isn't like peace-time. You should keep to the beaten track." 

"At the cost of boring my readers?" asked Timothy pertly. 

'Tm only telling you as a friend that archseological investiga- 
tions in the neighbourhood of military areas are liable to be 
misunderstood. You don't want to get the girls into trouble, 
do you?" 

"I beg your pardon. Miss Chadwick?" 

"I mean, you don't want to get them talked about." 

"I still don't quite understand you." 

"Then I must leave it to your mature reflections. We live 
in a small community, you must remember that. Personally I 
never pay the smallest attention to gossip, and we all enjoy 
your articles so much." 

"Thank you. Miss Chadwick." Timothy was immediately 
mollified. 

"By the way," said Miss Chadwick in a slightly different 
tone. "I'm sorry to hear about your domestic difficulties." 

"Oh, what. . .?" 

"Naturally you wouldn't want to discuss them. Wimbush is 
an excellent gardener, but of course he hasn't got an easy 
temper." 

"I get on very well with him," said Timothy, mystified. 

"Perhaps you spoil him a little. You raised his wages, I 
believe?" 

"I told him not to tell anyone," said Timothy. 

"You've a lot to learn about village life, Mr. Casson. You 
couldn't expect her not to be jealous." 

"Oh, who?" 

The latch clicked. Timothy turned round. Effie was standing 



THE BOAT 125 

in the doorway. Timothy signalled to her with his eyebrows, 
but she held her ground. 

^'The relationship between cook and gardener is traditionally 
difficult. It will all blow over, if you're patient." 

Miss Chadwick's enunciation was remarkably clear, and it 
seemed to Timothy that everything she said must be distinctly 
audible to Effie, who had closed the door behind her and was 
standing with drooping eyelids in a pose that suggested un- 
bearable weariness combined with a stern sense of duty. He 
could think of nothing to say. 

*Tm not sure it pays to try to make friends with one's 
servants," Miss Chadwick went on. 'Their outlook is so very 
different from ours. Kindness is so often construed as weakness 
or worse, and familiarity is always a mistake. Hullo?" 

''Yes, Fm here," admitted Timothy. 

"I was afraid we had been cut off. Your parlourmaid seems 
a very superior girl, but she looks rather delicate. Is there any 
family history of tuberculosis?" 

"I never heard of any," said Timothy. 

"It might be worth while to make inquiries. Motoring, of 
course, doesn't suit everyone. It would be a thousand pities to 
let your kind intentions be the cause of injuring her health." 

Timothy glanced at Effie's drooping figure and remained 
tongue-tied. 

"Hullo? Again I thought we were cut off. It's lucky your cook 
takes such good care of her, but even the warmest friendship 
can't take the place of medical advice. She wouldn't resent you 
taking her to a doctor, would she? Sometimes they cannot see 
what is best for them. Dr. Melhuish is a very good man." 

'Til remember what you say. Miss Chadwick." 

"And I shouldn't worry about Wimbush. Those things 
blbw over. But it must be awkward if they're not on speaking 
terms." 

"To tell you the truth, I didn't know they weren't." 

"How strange! I shall ask people not to talk about it, though, 
to be sure, quarrels between servants are no reflection on the 
miaster of the house. But I'm sorry, we were always such a happy 
household in my brother's day." 

Timothy made suitable noises, and having inveigled Miss 



126 THE BOAT 

Chadwick into saying goodbye, he put down the receiver and 
apologized to Efiie. 

*'Did you want me for something important?" 

**It's all right now, sir," said Effie faintly, "but he gave me 
quite a turn." 

"I am sorry, Effie, you do look rather pale." 

''Well, he walked right in, sir. I hadn't expected that. I 
don't expect to see them in the house. It isn't very nice." 

*'No, I'm sure. Who is he?" asked Timothy getting up and 
involuntarily looking round for a weapon. 

''He may have gone now, sir, you were so long talking to the 
telephone. He said he was in a hurry. And of course I didn't 
like what Miss Chadwick said. It frightened me. She didn't 
ought to have spoken like that, she gave me a turn. And her 
knowing so much about me and Beattie. It doesn't seem 
right." 

"No, well, we'll talk about that later. Now who is it who's 
waiting to see me?" 

"I left him in the hall," faltered Effie. "But he may be any- 
where now. I believe they can go anywhere they like. Nothing's 
private. Oh, I do hope it isn't one of us." 

Thoroughly alarmed, Timothy went from the brightness of 
the telephone-room into the cool twilight of the hall. A helmet, 
looking enormous in the gloom, stood on the table, and sitting 
beside it on a hard hall chair, as though keeping watch over it, 
was a policeman. The policeman rose to his feet, slowly, as if 
by standing he committed himself to a new line of behaviour, 
and said : 

"Beg pardon, sir, but I called to see you about a small 
matter." 

Timothy hoped he didn't look as guilty as he felt. "Oh yes," 
he said. "Can I help you in any way?" 

"Well, it's like this, sir. In your premises you have, I under- 
stand, a shed." 

Timothy felt extremely reluctant to admit that this was so, 
but didn't think it wise to deny it. 

"That being the case," went on the policeman, who was tall 
and fair and young, "are you of the opinion that the shed is 
one in which a car could be accommodated?" 



THE BOAT 127 

Trying to see a catch in this, Timothy admitted that a small 
car might be. 

''Such a car as Mr. Edgell Purbright's, for instance?" said the 
policeman with a slight twinkle in his eye. 

Clearly the policeman was omniscient. 

"Yes," said Timothy, "he used to it keep there." Now for the 
summons, or arrest, or whatever it was. 

"Well, sir," said the policeman, with the air of a commander 
who having cleared the ground now advances to the attack, 
"in view of what you have just stated, would you allow a car to 
stand in the aforesaid shed?" 

Timothy was so overwhelmed with relief that he could have 
embraced the policeman. 

"Of course, my dear fellow!" he exclaimed. "I should be 
only too dehghted." 

But the policeman was not to be put out of his stride. 

"The car would be an eight horse-power saloon job, with 
carmine red body, and black wings. It is very nicely upholstered 
in a red leatherette. I may add that it is altogether a lovely- 
looking little outfit." 

"I congratulate you," said Timothy. "Is the car yours?" 

"It has only done 6,000 miles," the policeman went on. 

"Think of that!" 

"It cruises comfortably at forty-five." 

"What a marvellous car! Did you say it was yours?" 

"It gets away as good as any high-powered American make." 

"I can hardly wait to see it," said Timothy. 

"And the price was only a hundred and fourteen pounds." 

"What!" exclaimed Timothy. "I thought you were going to 
say a thousand." 

"A hundred and fourteen it was," the policeman said, "I 
suppose in consideration for my uniform." 

"So it does belong to you!" exclaimed Timothy. 

For the first time the policeman looked slightly put out, as if 
Timothy had unfairly forestalled him. He had clearly timed 
this disclosure for a later stage in the conversation. But he said 
good-humouredly, "Since you ask me, it does." 

"How splendid." 

They gazed at each other in delight, marvelling at the miracle 



128 THE BOAT 

of the constable's precious possession. The elation of his pride 
in it entered into Timothy, reviving his trust in the joy of 
living; it seemed for a moment as if nothing in the world 
could go wrong, when a man could be so happy in his motor^ 
car. 

Suddenly the policeman banished ecstasy from his brow, and 
looked more business-like. His air of severity returning to 
him, he said, ^'I believe you stated that the shed had been 
already used for the purpose of accommodating a motor^ 
car?" 

''Well, you said so, as a matter of fact," remarked Timothy. 

The policeman looked serious, as if levity was out of place in 
a transaction of this sort. 

'That being the case, might I inquire what sum the tenant 
paid by way of rent?" 

"He didn't pay anything," said Timothy. 

A look of disapproval crossed the constable's face, indicating 
that this was not the way business should be done. But relief 
struggled with it, and dropping his official manner, he blurted 
out, "I could manage five bob a week." 

Timothy was touched. 

"Oh no," he said. "You're quite welcome to the shed, such as 
it is." 

The policeman stared at him a moment, and wiped his brow 
with the back of his hand, and Timothy realized what an effort 
the offer to pay must have cost him. 

"The wife will be grateful to you, sir," he grinned. "She 
didn't want me to buy the car at all, she was dead against it." 

A stab of pleasure went through Timothy, a warm gust of 
gratitude at having been able to take so much care off the 
policeman's shoulders. But he repressed it, realising that he 
could claim small merit for a benefit which cost him no more to 
confer than the breath with which it was given. 

"Now you'll be able to keep an eye on us," he said. 

"You don't suspect anything wrong, sir?" 

"No, indeed. I was only joking." 

As the policeman was reaching for his helmet the front'door 
bell rang. Excusing himself, Timothy went to the door. But in 
his haste he turned so quickly diat he slipped and with a crash 



THE BOAT 129 

measured his length on the flagstones. 

''Are you hurt, sir?" asked the poUceman, looking down at 
him impassively. 

"Oh no/' said Timothy, preparing to get up. 

The policeman raised a warning finger. ''Would you just 
make sure, sir? Only a routine precaution, I hope." 

Feeling rather foolish, Timothy made swimming motions on 
the floor. 

"Quite all right." 

The policeman stooped down and helped him to his feet. 

"It doesn't do to move them at once, sir," he explained, "in 
case there should be any bones broken." 

"Very thoughtful of you," Timothy said, and waving away 
Effie, who had fluttered into the background, he opened the 
front door himself. 

Mrs. Pur bright was standing on the threshold. She looked 
white and frightened. 

"Come in, come in," he said. 

But she had caught sight of someone inside, and recoiled. 
"I see you are engaged. Another time would be better." 

"Oh no, please come in." 

"But the morning is such an inconvenient time." 

"Not at all, I am at my best then." 

"Very well," said Mrs. Purbright reluctantly. "Why, it's 
Nelson! How do you do?" 

They shook hands, and Mrs. Purbright said, "I am so 
glad to find you here. It's most unexpected and reassuring. 
Such a good friend for Mr. Casson to have — I mean, he needs 
looking after. Nelson is a good friend to us all," she went on, 
"a very present help in time of trouble." The words recalled 
something to her, and her expression changed. "There has been 
nothing unfortunate, I hope? There is so much misfortune in 
the world, against which even Nelson cannot protect us." 

"Nothing wrong at all. Ma'am," Nelson answered her. 
"We were only having a friendly talk, as you might say." 

"Oh, I am so relieved," said Mrs. Purbright. "Now that I 
know everything's all right, may I tell you what I thought I 
saw as I was standing on the doorstep ? But perhaps you'd rather 
not know?" 



130 THE BOAT 

''No, please tell us." 

*'I thought I saw Mr. Casson lying on the floor among the 
rushes and you were there, too. Nelson, which was why I was 
so surprised, and yet not surprised, to see you." 

Timothy and the policeman exchanged glances, and Timothy 
told Mrs. Purbright of his mishap. She nodded, without 
appearing to share their wonderment, and said, ^'l can't see 
very well — the black-out makes everything so dark. But are 
there any rushes on the floor ? It was one of those nice mediaeval 
customs." 

"There are some in the corner," said Timothy. He glanced at 
the converted umbrella-stand from which protruded, moth- 
eaten and with the stuffing coming out of them, the long, brown 
velvet fingers of Miss Chadwick's bullrushes. * 'Perhaps it was 
these you saw?" he suggested. 

Absently Mrs. Purbright agreed that it might have been. 
"But I interrupted your talk with Nelson," she said, distressed. 
"You can talk to me at any time." 

Timothy protested that he and Nelson had finished all they 
had to say. 

"Oh but conversation is so important!" cried Mrs. Pur- 
bright, shaking her head and looking extremely worried. "I'm 
sure you would agree with me, Mr. Casson, and Nelson must 
have to talk to so many people who are in trouble of some 
kind — who are angry, or ill, or frightened, or miserable, or 
who . . . who . . . have done something wrong?" She looked at 
Nelson in an agony of interrogation. 

"I suppose I do see the seamy side. Ma'am," said the police- 
man, not without complacency. "But the worst thing about my 
job is all the silly questions 1 get asked." 

He reddened, suddenly realizing that Kirs. Purbright had 
asked him a question, but she didn't seem to notice, and 
swept on. 

"Yes, it must be most boring for you. But how nice to be 
able to tell people where to go and what to do, and never make 
a mistake! I envy him, don't you, Mr. Casson?" 

Timothy admitted that he envied Nelson. 

"You wouldn't, sir, not if you knew what I've got to do 
now," said the policeman. "But I won't tell you not in front 



THE BOAT 131 

of Mrs. Purbright, she's that tender-hearted." For the second 
time he reached for his helmet, and having opened the door so 
as not to do discourtesy to the house, he stood on the doorstep 
to put it on. ''Good morning, ma'am, good morning, sir, I'm 
very much obliged to you," he said, as he saluted them 
goodbye. 

"Such a nice man," sighed Mrs. Purbright, protestingly 
allowing Timothy to lead her into the drawing-room. "I won't 
ask you what he came about, I'd rather not know." Timothy 
took this for an invitation, and was beginning to tell her, but 
she held up her hand. "No, I'd much rather you kept it to 
yourself. There's too much common knowledge — it's such a 
pity. Now I expect you know quite well what brings me here." 
When Timothy declared he did not, she seemed astounded. 

"Y6u wouldn't have received me so graciously if you had," 
she remarked. "I am a bird of ill-omen." She gave him her sad, 
penetrating stare and asked his permission to smoke. She 
refused his cigarettes, and fitted a thin yellow Russian one into 
her long black cigarette holder. "Of course it all depends," she 
said, "on how long you're staying here." 

Timothy explained about the unbreakable five years' lease. 
"But I don't want to go away," he wound up. 

Mrs. Purbright said she was glad to hear him say so. "And of 
course we don't want you to go — it would be a calamity — yes, 
a calamity — for the district. All the same," she stuck to her 
guns, "you might want to go away, for a time." 

Timothy reminded her of the lease. 

"Oh, the lease!" said Mrs. Purbright vaguely. "1 expect you 
could soon find a way out of that. Solicitors can, you know, and 
Clara Chad wick is not a woman to stand in the way of her own 
advantage." Timothy raised his eyebrows; what could Mrs. 
Purbright be driving at? But she was already explaining. "All I 
mean is, you mustn't let yourself feel shut in here. There are 
other places, Mr. Casson, other valleys as beautiful as this." 

"You sound as if you wanted me to go," said Timodiy 
reproachfully. 

"Do I?" said Mrs. Purbright. "How one's words betray one! 
I should miss you sadly, we all should. Such a distinction for 
this little place. It would be a disaster for us. But as I said, tliere 

E* 



132 THE BOAT 

are other houses, other rivers — Windrush, Evenlode, such 
lovely names. Swirrel sounds so shallow and scratchy." 

"But where should I go?" asked Timothy. 

''Don't speak of going, don't think of it! But you have friends 
in this country, of course, a man of your literary standing 
must have many friends. I can imagine how much they must 
long to see you. And relations too, or did you tell me you 
hadn't? Excuse me, I hate to seem prying. At my age — not at 
yours, of course— one needs a context.This is mine— these woods, 
these hills, this horizon, how near it seems!" — she waved her 
cigarette holder towards the window where the line of hill-top 
like a screen shut out the sky — "these friends, these neigh' 
hours — you saw some of them at the Rectory, these Nelsons, 
these — could I count Miss Cross? — and my own dear family — 
such good, good people! And yet, Mr. Casson, I know you 
won't misunderstand me if I say that sometimes I should be 
glad to get away from it all." She paused. "In Italy, I expect, 
you felt quite free?" 

One confidence deserves another, and Timothy, rather 
haltingly, for the facts do not always give the flavour and 
meaning of one's own life, even to the most sympathetic 
listener, he told her how he had been the child of his father's 
old age and of his mother's late maturity, how they had died 
while he was still a boy, leaving him to the care of a guardian, a 
man of great integrity, devoted to his parents' memory ; how to 
this Victorian business-man he had been not only an absolute 
obligation, but also an object of affection, almost of love, and 
shielded from the harsher, and above all from the practical 
contacts of the world. It was he who in the first instance had 
taken Timothy to Italy for long holidays in the legendary time 
before the first World War, and introduced him, insensibly, to 
the life of aesthetic appreciation which he had led ever since. 

Culture had been a kind of religion to his guardian, and 
business closely linked with morals ; ostentation was abhorrent 
to him, they travelled in comfort but never in luxury, and in all 
he did he was influenced, if not guided, by the criterion of 
what a man in his circumstances could afford. He had never 
married, and though he rarely mentioned the subject to 
Timothy he gave him the idea that attention to business, the 



THE BOAT 133 

continual improvement of one's mind, regular habits, the kind 
of social life that consisted in a dinner party for six or eight 
people, with excellent wine, beginning soon after eight and 
ending soon after eleven, the exact and punctual discharge of 
every duty, and a self-discipline that need never amount to 
stoicism — that these constituted a routine sufficient for life. 

What lay beyond he treated with impenetrable reserve; ''I 
don't think he denied its existence," said Timothy, *'he once or 
twice quoted Pascal to me — *je mourrai seul'" (Mrs. Pur- 
bright nodded) ''and implied that certain experiences must be 
faced alone and without help from anyone else. And certainly 
in his own last illness, which was long and painful, and in which 
he needed the help of a male nurse for all the smallest bodily 
necessities, he never complained except playfully or allowed one 
to feel that one was visiting a sick man. He was most particular 
about that, and disliked any extra attention, or even inflexion 
of one's voice, that showed that one was sorry for him. Towards 
the end he showed a little asperity — a sort of weakening of 
control, I suppose — it was one of the indulgences he had denied 
himself before. He saw less and less of his friends — he said he 
preferred people should remember him as he used to be — and 
in the end only me and the nurse and the doctor." 

Mrs. Purbright took the cigarette holder from her mouth, and 
sat quite still. 

*'One felt his absorption in what lay before him the moment 
one entered the room," said Timothy. 'The world outside 
seemed muffled and far away, and time had no quality except its 
tick, as it has when you are waiting for a clock to strike. I 
admired him very much and loved him then, but it was too 
late to tell him so, and would have sounded false, for we had 
never made each other professions of affection. One's mind 
recognises the approach of death, and I did not need warning 
when the time came for me not to leave him. I had been sitting 
by his bed, holding his hand and not speaking, to spare him 
the effort of reply, when suddenly he said, in quite a strong 
voice, 'I have waited until now,' and a few minures later he 
died." 

Tears came into Timothy's eyes, and blurred his utterance. 
Usually the scene brought him little emotion, he had thought of 



134 THE BOAT 

it SO often; but when he tried to put it into words, and all the 
circumstances came back, his grief renewed itself. He had almost 
forgotten Mrs. Pur bright and was startled to hear her voice. 

''What a privilege, and how thankful you must be!" 

As Timothy turned to her, a wild light sprang into her eyes, 
a swaying violet flame that lit up her whole face. He felt hurt 
and disappointed, and said, shortly, ''It was the saddest day of 
my life." 

Her expression of exaltation did not change, however. 

"But think of what it meant to him!" 

"To him? He's dead," said Timothy. 

"No, no!" cried Mrs. Purbright. She laid her long blue- 
veined hand, with its single sapphire, on his arm. "You must 
never say that! Never think it! But you don't; you speak against 
your feeling. The grief is for you ; it is a precious possession, 
Mr. Casson ; cherish it, guard it always ! It is not too much for 
you — believe me, it is not! But for him the waiting is over; be 
thankful for that, as he was, and do not let your sorrow cast a 
shadow across his fields of light! Be sorry for your loss, yes, for 
that is irreparable, but not for him. Who knows, where he is 
gone, he may still need your faith, your joy joined to his, to 
recognise himself in the company of the blessed, to assure him 
that it is he, he, your guardian, the companion of your happy 
days, to whom this bliss belongs!" 

She paused and looked at Timothy as though for confirma- 
tion. He felt her words beating against the bastions of his 
mind, hardened by years of another way of thinking; they 
could not force an entrance, yet the garrison pricked up its 
ears and manned the walls. 

As though aware that she was leading where he could not 
follow, Mrs. Purbright changed her voice and thanked Timothy 
formally for what he had told her. 

"Do your thoughts often go back to that afternoon?" she 
added. 

"Oh yes." Timothy did not remember telling her that his 
guardian had died in the afternoon. "I went into the room but I 
sometimes wonder if I ever came out." 

"Oh no," said Mrs. Purbright, anxiously, "no. You mustn't 
say that. The windows are open and we are all in the world. 



THE BOAT 135 

No, I see your guardian well, a noble portrait by Vandyck, a 
head above a ruff, grave, sensitive, serene. I expect he influenced 
you greatly. What there was to look at then, he saw; and the 
best of it. But now, what a different prospect! His face con- 
demns what we see; but still, we must look at it, though it is 
harder for us, who have seen through his eyes." 

**I always took the line of least resistance," sighed Timothy. 
"What he left me enabled me to do that. He wouldn't have 
liked me to skim the cream without doing the milking, but 
there! Fm like many belated Victorians, I suppose." 

Again a ferment of flame in Mrs. Purbright's eyes, a startling 
intensification of her regard, a protest, a challenge. It died out, 
and she merely said, ''Humanism might have been one's re- 
ligion in those days." 

''But not now?" said Timothy. 

Mrs. Pur bright shook her head. 

"We can inherit the gifts of Christianity but not hand them 
on: I mean, the third generation must renew its faith." 

Timothy wondered to which generation, in Mrs. Purbright's 
view, he belonged. Her next remark did not really enlighten 
him. 

"You are a regular attendant at church, Mr. Casson," she 
said. "In a Roman Catholic country my husband would take 
that for granted. Here, he naturally is pleased." 

Timothy felt extremely uncomfortable. His reasons for 
having become a church-goer were not the right ones, certainly 
not the best ones. 

"I like the feeling of being in church," he said, apologetically, 
"the bowed heads, the subdued movements, the ritual, that 
varies so little and so much. And the sense of worship round me 
is comforting to me, even if I don't share it. I expect a barn-door 
fowl is grateful for its wings even if they scarcely lift it from the 
ground." 

Mrs. Purbright listened to him attentively, but no elation, 
no upflung spark of sympathy, ignited in her eye. 

"So glad," she murmured almost mechanically. "So very, 
very delighted. Who in the. congregation, I wonder, could say 
as much? Who would wish to say more? Can you think of 
anyone?" 



136 THE BOAT 

She darted the question at him with extraordinary intensity, 
as if a great deal hung upon his answer. 

Timothy smiled. 

*'Well, you see, I hardly know any of them, even to speak to, 
much less to exchange religious views with." 

"But it is a beginning, isn't it, to be with them, enjoy the 
bowed heads, the ritual, the spiritual comfort — isn't it a short 
step, then, to a friendly understanding, not perhaps on the 
spiritual plane" — a wave of her hand seemed to dismiss the 
spiritual plane — "but to a feeling of neighbourliness — I mean 
the kind of relationship in which all you have done for us, Mr. 
Casson, might be acknowledged by something, however little, 
that we could do for you?" 

"But I have done nothing!" exclaimed Timothy. "I only wish 
I could." 

Mrs. Purbright looked at him. 

"Shall I take you at your word?" 

"Please." 

She smoothed out her blue dress under the black fur, took 
another cigarette, changed her position as if she were changing 
her mood and seemed to assume another personality. 

"On my way here I called on Colonel Harbord." 

"Ah!" said Timothy. It sounded like a snarl. Try as he would 
he could not keep the hostility out of his voice. 

"He is, of course, an old friend of mine," said Mrs. Pur- 
bright. "We do not touch, we do not meet, our gestures are 
lost upon each other. I come into his house as a bird might, 
through the window, and as he is fond of animals he does all he 
can not to scare me, and keeps the window open so that I can 
fly out again." 

"I shall shut the window," said Timothy. He rose to suit the 
action to the word. It was not a mere politeness, for at the men- 
tion of Colonel Harbord's name he had become aware of a keen 
draught. Mrs. Purbright called him back. 

"No, please let us breathe this exquisite spring air," she said. 
"I was very open with Colonel Harbord, I rated him severely. 
Do you know why?" 

Timothy kept a childish, obstinate silence. 

"I see you do know. And what do you think he said?" 



THE BOAT 137 

*'I can't imagine." The spurt of rudeness in his voice startled 
Timothy, and he added, ''I mean, I wouldn't be likely to 
know." 

"He was so funny, so serious about it all." 

''Well, I am serious, too. I don't know if I'm funny," 
retorted Timothy. 

Mrs. Purbright became grave at once. 

''No, for you it is a necessity. I told him so." 

Obstinacy would not let Timothy inquire what reply Colonel 
Harbord had made, but he could not help saying, "I suppose he 
told you it all depended on Mrs. Lampard." 

"She was such a dazzling creature when we first met her," 
said Mrs. Purbright. "She wasn't married then, she had only 
just come out, and was startling everyone with her unconven- 
tionality. That was in London; we heard about it before we 
saw her; she came to stay at Welshgate Hall — she was a distant 
relation of old Mrs. Lampard. The old lady used to give large 
parties, and we were asked to one. Do you dislike arrogance, 
do you think it wrong? Her manner offended many people, but 
I thought it was just high spirits. Where will you find great art 
without arrogance? A masterpiece is there to be admired, and 
she was a masterpiece, not of art but of nature. It was her art to 
be natural. Do we think the worse of a child or a cat or a swan, 
because they sometimes rebuff us? Don't we feel the more 
elated, when it pleases them to be pleased? And she could be so 
melting, so irresistible when she was in the mood. It was not 
that she was kind and good. She could have wheedled the keys 
out of a gaoler, or the rifle out of a sentry if she had had the 
mind." 

"I remember when she came to lunch with me," said 
Timothy, "that she made it seem an altogether unusual event." 

"When was that?" Mrs. Purbright asked. 

"It was in September, 1927. Funny that I should remember," 
said Timothy carelessly. 

"Wouldn't it be funnier if you had forgotten? I mean, at 
that time, not now, perhaps. Now she is quite different, I'm 
told, not that we ever see her. She shouldn't have married 
Randall Lampard. Oh no, it was a great mistake." 

"Wasn't he a good match?" asked Timothy. 



138 THE BOAT 

**Oh yes, too good, too rich, too handsome. But he was 
twice her age and besides, he was married already." 

**I never knew that!" exclaimed Timothy, a little put out at 
being found wanting in worldly knowledge. 

''She wasn't happy with him, who could have been, but they 
were just struggling along, and poor thing she was so hoping for 
a child who might have brought them together. He complained 
of her childlessness, but who knows whether he really wanted 
her to have one ? This is what Nelson calls the seamy side — life 
is incomplete without it, I suppose — but when Julia began to 
lay siege to him she didn't realize — she was barely nineteen — 
what it would mean to an older woman. She may have thought — 
let us give her the benefit of the doubt — that he was being 
sacrificed to a loveless marriage. But it wasn't easy for Julia, 
because he was far too spoilt to fall in love with her. Other men 
did, oh but a great many. We heard all about them when she 
came to live in the district." 

'*Oh, did she?" said Timothy. 

*'Yes, the Palliters of Deepdene were her cousins. She spent 
weeks, months with them. Edward and I used to go there 
often — there were plenty of young men — I sometimes think that 
youth was an Edwardian phenomenon — and she flirted with 
them like a charming young tigress. It was delicious to watch 
her." 

"Did they find it dehcious?" asked Timothy. 

"Oh surely! Why else did they go? Can you have a queen 
without a court? And do the courtiers mind? Wouldn't they 
lose their occupation if she didn't smile at them? One mustn't 
judge those days by these. In those days there was so much 
happiness to fall back on — cushions, mattresses of happiness; 
and if you weren't happy you could always feel that other 
people were. Life was padded against accident. Now, if one 
scratches one's fingers, the whole world bleeds." 

"How do you mean?" asked Timothy. 

"I mean we've sold our capital of happiness, our reserves are 
gone, we must build them afresh. Isn't that what you are 
doing in your articles, showing the delight and beauty that still 
waits in England, through your own eyes, through your ser- 
vants' eyes, catching us all in your golden net?" 



THE BOAT 139 

Timothy reddened. 

''You pick it up from the earth, you reach for it from the air 
— not with your will, I think, but may I say with the com' 
municating effort of your nature, that stretches out to beauty 
and love." 

"Yes," said Timothy, who had collected himself. "But you 
forget the third element, water. I also look for a spiritual 
harvest there." 

Mrs. Purbright's face fell. 

"No," she said. "I don't forget. I was coming to that. But 
where was I?" 

"You were talking about Mrs. Lampard's young men." 

"How odd it soimds, put like that. Well, finally she got 
engaged to one of them. People say now she never meant it 
seriously — that it was part of her plan — but I don't like to 
think so. I think the plan came later, when she saw that 
Randall Lampard really minded the engagement." 

"Did she break it off?" 

"Not at once," said Mrs. Purbright slowly. "Not for quite a 
long time. They used to ride over to Welshgate Hall together, 
she and the young man, and drop in casually. I don't want to 
seem censorious, but I think it was then that she made a 
mistake. You see, she wanted him so much." 

"But is it wrong to want something?" asked Timothy. 

"Oh no, nol How else would the world get on? But don't 
you sometimes feel a current flowing that draws your own will 
with it, like the wind that bends the ears in a cornfield? You 
know the shimmer that passes and gladdens one's heart, 
because something in one answers to the movement and would 
be distressed if even a single head leaned the other way? If she 
felt it she didn't heed it. I used to meet her on the road to 
Welshgate, sometimes alone, generally with her fiance; she 
looked magnificent on a horse, as she still does. Sometimes she 
would greet me as her oldest friend; sometimes with a kind of 
amused smile as if I had interrupted a private joke she was 
having at my expense. Her lips came together and her eyes 
sought his, bright with complicity. But as time passed I saw 
him more seldom, and in the end she rode alone. He's married 
now. I wonder if he ever thinks of those rides. 



140 THE BOAT 

"The neighbourhood thought she was behaving badly; I 
beUeve that her friends and relations pleaded with her and 
entreated her to go away from Upton, but she stayed on and on. 
She never became a laughing-stock, oh no. There was some- 
thing first-rate about her, unchallengeable, that couldn't be made 
to look silly. Her pride stood up to the strain. Singly she was a 
match for them all, and even in corners people only whis- 
pered, as if the shadow of a hawk was on them. But she got a 
strained, intent look, as if she was watching something on a 
distant hill; you could tell that nothing existed for her except 
her object. All the elasticity was gone. I used to pity her on 
those solitary rides. And then one day I met her coming the 
other way, and Randall Lampard was with her. She looked 
triumphant, but not happy or at rest. But why am I telling you 
all this?" 

''No, please," said Timothy, "go on. I've so often wondered 
about her." 

"I haven't much more to tell because well, you know what 
our position is, and after the divorce and everything our re- 
lations with Welshgate became merely formal — to my sorrow, 
for it was then she needed sympathy. And then the war came 
with its invisible cloak altering everything, changing values ; old 
Mrs. Lampard died, and the Hall became a hospital; and soon 
after that he got a job in Paris, something to do with the Peace 
Settlement, and she joined him there, and gossip says they 
each went their own way. Well, that was the way she had 
always gone, and he too, though for a moment he went hers. 
When I saw him, just before he died, he was a distinguished- 
looking elderly gentleman with sleek hair, almost green." 

"Death was very obliging to her," said Timothy. 

"Yes. It mowed a swath in front of her, for it took his first 
wife too — not that she made any resistance, poor thing. Some 
people are in league with death, it enters into their calculations, 
they count on it. They would take any risk. That was what 
Edward meant when he said she was like a Renaissance princess. 
But she was different when she first came to Upton, a young girl 
in love. The waiting and planning changed her nature." 

"You don't see any parallel between her career and mine?" 
asked Timothy. 



THE BOAT 141 

Mrs. Purbright opened her eyes wide. 

*'Oh, Mr. Casson, how could you suggest such a thing? No, 
no. There never were two people less alike. I can't remember 
how we came to talk about her. Yes, I do. I am so anxious you 
should use your boat, and before you come to want it too 
much." 

Timothy laughed. 

*'How kind you are. But is there no way of getting round Mrs. 
Lampard? Has she no soft spot anywhere?" 

Mrs. Purbright thought deeply. 

''Like Jephthah, she has a daughter." 

''Oh, she has a daughter?" 

"Yes, indeed, Desiree. She was born in Paris, six or seven 
years after they were married." 

"She was a disappointment, I expect," said Timothy. He felt 
as though the subject of Mrs. Lampard had turned his mind to 
vinegar. 

"Oh, no," said Mrs. Purbright. "She loves her with a jealous 
affection. A boy was what he wanted. Desiree has been most 
carefully brought up, and sheltered in a way that seems old- 
fashioned nowadays. I've met her once or twice. She seems a 
sweet girl, rather shy, hardly with a will of her own. She's just 
twenty but she never goes out alone, there's always a groom or 
someone with her. Yes, Mrs. Lampard is a very strict and 
careful mother and the parties at Welshgate are exceedingly 
conventional, so I am told. Mrs. Lampard has cold-shouldered 
her past life, and doesn't recognize it; she is very particular 
and correct and not very kind to other people's failings. Yet 
how can one not admire her, for having the pluck to live it all 
down? And not for her own sake — I don't suppose she cares a 
scrap for the world's opinion — but for her daughter's. Have I 
made you like her better? I hope I have." 

To his great surprise Timothy was suddenly aware of a 
warmer feeling for Mrs. Lampard. 

"Do you think if I rescued the daughter from some dangerous 
situation — of course it would have to be in full \'iew of Mrs. 
Lampard — she might — " 

"I am sure she woiild,^'' said Mrs. Purbright, her eyes kindling 
at the prospect. "We must think of a way. A little plot! What 



142 THE BOAT 

fun it would be." Her eyes narrowed. ''So much can be done 
through the affections." She. gave him a quizzical look. *'Do I 
know you well enough to appeal to yours?" 

''They are always at your service," exclaimed Timothy. 
His conversation with Mrs. Purbright, twenty minutes of 
almost complete emotional accord, had entirely won him to her 
side, and he felt ready to do anything for her. 

"But as I said," she reminded him, "it depends on how 
long you're going to stay in Upton. You may not want to stay, 
when you know my errand." Her glance was questioning, 
almost hopeful. "Colonel Harbord looked rather blank, and 
Mrs. Harbord almost flabbergasted, when I asked them." 

"You're still trying to drive me away!" cried Timothy. 

"Oh no, no I If you only knew how anxious we are to keep 
you! But listen. I am the billeting officer," she said tragically, 
"and I've come to ask you to take some evacuees." 

"Oh!" The ejaculation was forced out of Timothy. He felt 
physically and emotionally winded, and it took him an appre- 
ciable time to rearrange his face. 

"There!" said Mrs. Purbright sadly. "I should have told you 
at first, and not tried to win your confidence with unkind 
gossip about people I hardly know. For the sake of the pleasure 
of your society I took a mean advantage. Do you ever feel the 
burden of your sins, Mr. Casson? Not that you have any, I'm 
sure." 

Timothy was bewildered by her change of mood and subject. 
"Well, just lately I've been thinking more about other people's." 

"Exactly! and how right! And now you will be thinking 
about mine. What a hypocrite she is, you must be saying to 
yourself, to ramble on about the dangers of purposefulness (I 
mean in the case of Mrs. Lampard, of course) when all the time 
she had one idea, to make me do something which will ruin my 
life." 

Mrs. Purbright's raised hand dropped into her lap, and her 
expression became utterly woe-begone. 

Timothy had now recovered himself. 

"Of course I should be only too pleased — " he began. 

"Yes, yes, I know you would. But if I just tell them you don't 
know how long you may be staying, the whole question can be 



THE BOAT 143 

dropped." 

Timothy had a momentary vision of the taxi at the door, and 
what was that behind it, a kind of trailer carrying the boat? 
Goodbye, Upton! He was off. The evocation glowed with the 
relief that lightens the last moments of almost any departure 
but he put it from him, and said : 

"It's my servants, you know. They say they won't stay if I 
have evacuees. They say all the bother would fall on them." 

Mrs. Pur bright knit her brows. 

"And it's true. Poor Mr. Casson! Do you ever feel a longing 
for hotel life — no orders to give, no one to propitiate, ever- 
thing at regular hours — writing letters in one's bedroom, or 
one of those nice quiet writing-rooms they often have — no 
responsibility, no pressure of life, even the black-out arranged 
for you! I know of such a delightful little inn on the river 
below Swirrelsford, with everything you can wish for, even 
boats — I often think I shall retire to it! But you say they are 
quite adamant?" 

"My cook is," sighed Timothy, "and Effie generally agrees 
with her." 

"If they left," said Mrs. Purbright, "what would you do?" 

"Leave, too, I suppose," Timothy said. "They tell me, and 
all my friends tell me, that I should never get any more." 

Mrs. Purbright stroked her chin with a masculine gesture. 
"You know, I believe you are the only resident in Upton with a 
proper staff of servants. Isn't it a tribute? Nearly all the rest of 
us depend on a daily woman. We're quite envious of you. Oh 
to be a bachelor! But most households have a wife or a sister 
or an aunt, some female drudge, to keep them fed and tidy. 
You would be sadly at a loss." 

"Yes," said Timothy. "I really should have to leave." 

For a second Mrs. Purbright's face didn't alter. She seemed to 
be accepting Timothy's announcement with resignation, even 
with relief. Then animation spread through her, in almost 
visible waves, like the return of feeling to a limb that has gone to 
sleep. 

"Let me talk to them, let me talk to them!" she cried, 
springing to her feet. "I'll see if I can't persuade them!" 

Timothy escorted her to the kitchen door, and returned to 



144 THE BOAT 

his writing table, where a letter from Magda lay unopened. 

"I'm still terribly bored," she complained, ''and if I was a 
man I should be a conscientious objector. They are the only 
people I respect. And as you know, many of the Comrades are 
Conchies. I was talking to one who had been wounded three 
times in the Spanish war and tortured by the Fascists, and he 
said nothing would induce him to fight in this. A good-looking 
man with a perfect figure and as fit as you could wish, but that's 
what he said. ''It's not our v/ar." Naturally, if he had refused to 
fight on religious grounds, I should have despised him utterly. 

"I am sick of my job here and if I thought it contributed to 
what they call the 'War Effort' but what ought to be called the 
enslavement of the workers, I should throw it up at once. 
London is so completely dreary now, the food uneatable, the 
drink poison, and the people shabby beyond belief. And dirty. 
Next to being a Fascist that's the thing I mind most. Cleanliness 
is next to Communism and as a rule they are both found 
together — not always, for some of the Comrades look a bit 
dingy. I confess that in them I find grime rather endearing and 
anyhow it's not their 'fault' (to use an old-fashioned expression) 
it's the fault of the conditions miost of them have had to live in. 
In Curzon Street we have the Collective Courtesy Room 
scrubbed with disinfectant daily and it's more bearable than 
the scent most people use. 

"Rural areas are notoriously out of step, and your situation 
vis-a-vis the fishing snobs sounds the kind of thing we ought to 
inquire into. I've sent a memorandum about it to headquarters 
and if you like I'll have someone sent down to Upton to make a 
report, and incidentally strengthen the resistance to the snob- 
centres that you say already exists in the neighbourhood. You 
needn't be afraid it would get you into a jam (I know you hate 
that); whoever went would work strictly on their own. The 
Government doesn't exactly encourage our activities but it's 
still a free country, thank God. I would come myself if I wasn't 
so tied up here. 

"Do you know, in spite of your anti-politics pose, I detect a 
welcome strain of class-consciousness in your last letter? You 
are beginning to see who the real enemy is, after all, and will 



THE BOAT 145 

have to come down off your fence. A propos, I was dining for 
my sins at Lucullus's the other night, and who should I see but 
Julia Lampard and her daughter — they were dining together 
and seemed quite wrapped up in each other. I don't approve of 
Julia, of course, she's a hopeless reactionary — and that dreadful 
habit of crumbling her bread ! But I've always liked her freedom 
from bourgeois prejudice, though I've never admired her looks 
- — those bloodhound eyes, that bee-stung lip — and now she has 
the suspicion of a Lely-esque dewlap. The daughter is rather 
pretty in a dark-eyed, pale-skinned way, but has no style: I 
suppose Julia thinks she is too young for that, though she must 
be nearly twenty. She hardly looked up when two young men 
stopped at their table to speak to Julia. My friend wouldn't have 
interested Julia, he is a night-club addict who doesn't improve 
with drink and I was thoroughly bored v/ith him before the 
evening was over. Men of that sort are so deadly un-serious, or 
serious about the wrong things: racing is nearly as much an 
opium of the people as religion. I doubt if he has ever heard of 
Marx. As you've never been in love you can't realize what a 
much better tonic hate is — but you will, you will, I recognize 
the symptoms. You couldn't be doing the cause a greater ser- 
vice than by living as you do, quietly ignoring the warmongers 
and raising ill-feelings against the boss-class. Soon you'll find 
what fullness and purpose it gives to life to know that there are 
several million people who are asking to be shot; and you are 
one of them, dear Timothy: yes, I'm afraid you are. 
Comradely salutes, we don't deal much in love 

Mag DA." 

The letter worried Timothy. Had Magda really sent a report 
on his affairs to her Communist friends? Would some nonde- 
script person carrying a parcel with a bomb in it suddenly 
materialize on the Green at Upton? One never knew what 
people would do, what breaches of confidence they might 
commit, once they got inoculated with one of those political 
viruses. And had his letter to Magda really shown the kind of 
feeling she professed to detect? Surely it was no more tlian a 
humorous exaggeration of his chronic grievance, meant to 
amuse her? Talking to Mrs. Purbright he had almost forgotten 



146 THE BOAT 

the grievance, and to be reminded of it, and congratulated on it, 
as if it was a virtue, and told to cherish it, was disturbing to 
him in his present mood. 

The door opened and Mrs. Purbright came in. She plunged 
uncertainly towards him, and he could not tell from her eyes, 
which in moments of absorption looked as sightless as a Greek 
statue's, how she had fared in her mission. 

*'No, no," she said when he offered her a chair. ''You mustn't 
let me sit down. I've taken up too much of your time already — 
the woman from Porlock, and on such distasteful business. 
But how nice they are, your servants. They seem so fond of 
each other. And of you, too. They said they couldn't do enough 
for you." 

Timothy showed his pleasure at this news. 

*'But not for the evacuees?" 

An expression Timothy couldn't decipher crossed Mrs. 
Purbright's face. 

"It seems so presumptuous to say it, and really I don't know 
how you'll take it — but yes, I succeeded, I prevailed." 

''Well done." 

Mrs. Purbright didn't seem to share his elation. 

"Time will show. I'm afraid it will be an awful bore for you — 
another tie, pleasant for us but cruelly binding for you. To think 
I should be the one to clip your wings!" 

"Oh, but this is my chosen perch." 

Mrs. Purbright spread out her hands. 

"They will undertake sole charge. You need not see, hear, or 
think about the little exiles. And perhaps they won't come, in 
which case!" — she made a wide gesture, embracing the heavens. 
"And believe me, your generous action will be widely appre- 
ciated, very widely." Timothy recognized an inflection from her 
husband's voice. "I shall see that it is. No, don't thank me," for 
Timothy had begun to stammer words of gratitude, he hardly 
knew for what — "regard me as your evil genius. I, I am to 
blame for anything that happens. All, all your just resentment 
must fall on me. Qoodbye." 

"Why did you say we'd have the children, Beattie?" Effie 
demanded as the kitchen door closed on Mrs. Purbright. 



THE BOAT 147 

'* You've always said we couldn't, you know that quite well." 

**Oh, I don't know," said Beatrice, wearily. ''It was her, I 
guess. She made me properly mad." 

**I don't know what's come over you lately," complained 
Effie. ''You don't seem to mind how much they put upon us. 
We could have said 'no' to her just as easily as we could to him. 
Who does she think she is, anyhow? And she didn't want us to 
take the children. Quite the opposite. 'They will disturb Mr. 
Casson's work, and add to yours. I strongly advise you to 
refuse,'" quoted Efiie, giving a plausible imitation of Mrs. 
Purbright's manner. 

"That's what riled me," Beatrice said. "If she'd asked us to 
say yes, I should have said no, of course. He must have put her 
up to it, telling her we wouldn't. What business is it of hers, 
anyhow? And her saying he ought to go to a warmer place 
because he'd lived abroad. I soon put a stop to all that." 

Effie assented rather dubiously to Beatrice's reasoning. 
"Of course it wouldn't be fair to us if he went away. Now that 
you mention it, she did seem as if she wanted to get rid of him. 
And all that money he puts in the collection ! Ten shillings every 
Sunday, they say. It seems a shame." 

"Who told you that?" asked Beatrice sharply. 

"A little bird," said Effie airily. 

"Not so little," said Beatrice darkly. "I wonder why you 
demean yourself. Silence while he's in the kitchen, that's my 
rule. And you won't have so much time to chatter when the 
evacuees come." 

"Well, you wanted 'em and you can look after 'em." 

Beatrice's eyes softened and her pose of no surrender to 
aggression relaxed. 

"I don't mind," she said. "It'll be like being young again. 
And it'll take my mind off other things." 

"What other things?" asked Effie, innocently. 

Beatrice jerked her chin up. 

"You should know." 



148 THE BOAT 



CHAPTER XI 

The tremendous, bewildering international events of May 
followed, but they reached Timothy only as a murmur, hardly 
more menacing to him personally than the far-off rumble of 
guns, which sometimes made the windows rattle but which, 
once he got used to them, confirmed his idea of the war as 
something that was taking place outside his experience. He was 
doubly insulated, by the hills of Upton, and the woods, just 
turning green, that thickly clothed and cloaked them, and still 
more by the solitary life he led, enclosed in his cocoon of self- 
generating and infertile thoughts. The war to him was some- 
thing that was happening in a history book which it would one 
day be his duty to learn : he could not recognise himself in the 
situation it created, nor could he profitably compare notes with 
other minds, for Effie and Beatrice were as little able to grasp 
world events as he was. Their reactions were confined to general 
denunciations of Hitler, while Wimbush, when questioned 
about this war, generally answered by describing his experiences 
in the last one. There remained Mrs. Purbright, whose company 
Timothy cultivated more and more ; her house was always open 
to him. But she never asked anyone to meet him, and her 
feelings about the war were, he gradually learned, only an 
intensified version of her general view of the human lot. For 
her, suffering was a mystery pregnant with beauty and redemptive 
value, and the greater the suffering the greater were the oppor- 
tunities for spiritual gain. At least he imagined that to be her 
view, but her mind was elusive and tangential and most un- 
willing to let its principles be known; any attempt on Timothy's 
part to anticipate its workings she eluded and would often 
impatiently disown her opinions of yesterday if he quoted them 
against, or even for her. 

Her husband's mind, on the other hand, was as plain sailing 
as a channel marked out by buoys ; with him the only risk was 
a sudden gust of temper which might spring up over anything, 
not only when he disagreed but if he thought a question un- 



THE BOAT 149 

Suitable for discussion. These visitations of Satan were well- 
known to the Rector, who tried to guard against and put them 
down, but the struggle was embarrassing both to him and to 
his interlocutor. Timothy never started a controversial topic 
with him if he could help it; though any subject was likely to 
become controversial. Still, the Rectory was a haven for 
Timothy ; he felt at home the moment he turned in at the gate — ■ 
and all the more so that other gates, snugly set in walls and split- 
wood fences, were barred against him. 

The evacuees duly arrived, two little boys aged five and 
seven, and were warmly welcomed not only by Timothy but by 
Beatrice and Effie. They were shy and tongue-tied and almost 
paralysed in Timothy's presence, but as soon as his back was 
turned they broke into violent movement, kicking up their 
heels like colts and shouting at each other in strong Midland 
accents that caused some amusement to Beatrice and Effie. 
Questions arose about where they were to go and what parts of 
the house should be out of bounds to them ; Timothy took them 
for a sight-seeing tour from room to room; they gazed wide- 
eyed but without seeming to take in what they saw, or kept 
each other's spirits up with nudges and whispered confidences 
when he was looking the other way. At the beginning he deter- 
mined to see them every day after tea, before they went to bed, 
and talk to them or read to them ; but he found their attention 
difficult to win, so strong was the undercurrent of private 
understanding between them which he could not enter. They 
came in with flattened hair and strained, set faces, almost like 
sleep-walkers; they hurried off in a flurry of whispers, shoves, 
and all the signs of a joyful reunion. Soon he discontinued 
these interviews which were obviously as much of an ordeal to 
the children as to him, though he sometimes went to see them 
in bed, when the approach of sleep was diminishing their high 
spirits and their small, rosy faces, side by side on the soft 
pillows, looked angelic. 

Timothy's part of the house held few attractions for them, 
but not so the garden, and it wasn't long before Beatrice came 
and announced, in an expressionless voice and with a studied 
moderation of manner, that unless Wimbush acted differently 
to the children, she couldn't stay. 



150 THE BOAT 

**What has he done?" asked Timothy with a sinking heart. 

''It's not what's he done, sir, it's what he says he'll do." 

*'Oh," said Timothy, reUeved. ''What does he say he'll do?" 

"I'm not one to tell tales," said Beatrice, compressing her 
lips. "But he says he'll skin them." 

"Oh, I don't suppose he means any harm. Did he say so to 
you?" 

Beatrice looked immeasurably affronted. 

"Mr. Wimbush knows better than to speak to me, sir, and if 
he did I shouldn't lower myself to listen. No, he said it to the 
boys." 

"I'm sure it was just his fun." 

"They didn't think so and nor will their Mum and Dad when 
they hear." 

"Is there any reason why they should hear?" asked Timothy. 

"It wouldn't be fair to keep a thing like that from them, sir, 
and there's the Society for the Prevention of Children, too." 

Timothy stared at Beatrice, hoping to find some sign of 
relenting in her attitude. But every line was square. 

"Has he ever, well . . . knocked them about?" 

"He wouldn't dare to lay a finger on them while I'm here, 
sir. But when I'm gone — " and to Timothy's astonishment 
Beatrice began to sob. He tried to comfort her. 

"Well, you mustn't go." 

Beatrice continued to sob. 

"I couldn't stay, not with him threatening them the way he 
does. You must speak to him, sir, I can't." 

She left the room, blubbering but somehow invested with the 
dignity of grief. Through the french window Timothy espied 
the stalwart form of Wimbush, vigorously weeding a flower- 
bed. Timothy went out to him. 

"Morning, sir," said Wimbush, "it do take all my time to get 
the better of they weeds." 

Timothy complimented him on his success and asked him if 
the boys gave him any trouble. 

"Trouble? Not they, sir. I like 'em. Regular little imps of 
Satan they are." 

"Sure they don't get in your way?" 

"Oh no, sir. Of course I has to keep my eye on them, other- 



THE BOAT 151 

wise they'd be all over the place. Regular boys they are, as full of 
mischief as a cartload of monkeys. But 'twouldn't be proper if 
they weren't." 

"You mustn't let them be a nuisance to you," said Timothy. 

Wimbush laughed. 

''Trust me, sir. Only yesterday I says to Billy, "If I catch you 
on that flower bed again I'll skin you." 

''Wasn't he frightened?" 

"Bless you, no, sir," he laughed. 

"Of course we have to remember that they've never been 
away from their parents before, so I expect they feel a bit 
strange." 

"I know, sir, that's why I talk to them like their father would. 
Makes them feel at home, like. They're fine boys, they are, sir, 
up to any mischief. I used to be like that myself." 

A manifold disturbance, a tornado of sight and sound, made 
itself felt in the distance, and soon Gerald and Billy were 
scampering towards them across the grass. At the sight of 
Timothy they halted abruptly, seemed to confer, and then 
advanced sedately, looking about them in an interested manner. 
A few yards away they stopped, put their hands in their pockets, 
stuck out their elbows, turned their eyes downwards, and 
leaned their small bodies heavily, first on one heel and then on 
the other, apparently to see which could make the deepest dent 
in the turf. 

"Say good morning to Mr. Casson," said Wimbush. "They 
seem to have lost their tongues." 

"Hullo," said Gerald to no one in particular, and Billy, after 
a moment's hesitation, contributed another 'hullo.' 

"Say 'sir.'" 

"Sir," said Gerald doubtfully. Billy remained silent, and 
looked at Timothy from under downcast eyelids. 

"He's regular obstinate, the little one," said Wimbush 
admiiringly. "If he don't want to speak you can't make him. 
But they'll talk like one o'clock the moment you've gone away, 
sir." 

"Well, perhaps I'd better go," said Timothy. Then, re- 
memibering Beatrice's accusation, he asked, "Are you quite 
happy?" 



152 THE BOAT 

Billy gave Gerald a nudge with his elbow, and Gerald 
studying his feet, replied tonelessly, ''Yessir." 

''No complaints?" 

They did not seem to understand this, and Wimbush inter- 
preted. ''Mr. Casson means do you miss your Mummy?" 

At this, the little one's underlip began to quiver, and Gerald 
took his arm and pointing to the horizon, said, "Mum's only 
just over there." 

"Mummy's coming to see you next week," said Timothy. 
"She's going to spend the day here." 

"And is Dad coming, too?" asked Gerald. 

"Yes, they're both coming by a train." 

"Mr. Casson will tell them what bad boys you are," said 
Wimbush in an affectionate tone, and as if this was the kind of 
report the parents would wish to hear. 

"We aren't, are we?" asked Gerald. 

"No, you're very good. What will you tell them about us?" 

The boys mioved uneasily from one foot to another, with 
half-smiles, unwilling to answer. 

"What will you say about Mr. Wimbush?" 

"He's champion," said Gerald. "He's given me a catapult. 
Will they take it away?" he added anxiously. 

"Oh, I don't suppose so." 

"But it's Beattie that dresses us," the older boy went on. 
"She's ever so nice. But she doesn't like Mr. Wimbush. She 
doesn't want us to play with him." 

Timothy saw the storm gathering between Wimbush's 
leonine brows, and said hastily, "Oh, but he likes to play with 
you." 

"Yes, you do, don't you, Mr. Wimbush?" asked Gerald in a 
small pale voice. 

Wimbush said nothing but pulled up some groundsel with 
as much energy as if he was eradicating Beatrice. 

"He calls us his mates," said Gerald proudly. "He says we're 
good little beggars. He don't lay into us, never." 

"I'm glad to hear that," said Timothy. 

Pleased with his success, Gerald let his glance stray over the 
house and garden. 

"Does it all belong to you?" he asked. 



THE BOAT 153 

''No, it really belongs to a lady called Miss Chadwick. I'm 
only the tenant." 

''Oh," Gerald seemed disappointed. "Don't none of it belong 
to Beattie?" 

"The kitchen belongs to her in a way, of course, but Miss 
Chadwick is the real owner." 

"Could she turn you out?" 

"Only if I did something wrong." 

A shadow of apprehension crossed Gerald's face. 

"You wouldn't, would you?" 

"I hope not," said Timothy. "Do you like it here?" 

"Yes," said Gerald, "but our house is a home." 

"Well, isn't this?" said Timothy. 

"No, it's too big for a home. It's more like an 'ospital. I've 
been in 'ospital once. So has Billy. We thought this was an 
'ospital when we first come. We thought you were the doctor. 
Then Beattie said, 'Oh no, he isn't, he's only Mr. Casson.'" 

Timothy laughed, and the gardener, who had worked off his 
ill-humour, laughed too. 

"Well," said Timothy, resolved on a last bit of detective 
work, "Now I'm going to leave you to Mr. Wimbush." 

He saw the relief, the sunrise of anticipatory joy on their 
faces as he turned to go; and through the french window he 
could see how quickly they regained their self-assurance in 
Wimbush's company. An exuberance of gesture took hold of 
them ; they waved their arms about and stamped their feet as if 
they had broken loose from invisible cords. 

Without giving his resolution time to cool, Timothy went 
straight to Beatrice and told her that he had seen Wimbush 
and the boys together, and that they all seemed to be on good 
terms. Wimbush's language might be a little rough, but 
Timothy was sure he meant no harm. Beatrice listened to him in 
a sceptical silence that was more baffling than argument, and 
when he had finished merely said she didn't suppose that 
Wimbush would set about the children as long as Timothy was 
looking on; all she could say was, she would never trust the 
gardener with any child of hers — her tone suggesting that 
whereas Timothy was culpably childless, she was not. At this 
point Effie came in, and Timothy appealed to her. 



154 THE BOAT 

''You don't think Wimbush would be unkind to the children, 
do you, Effie?" 

EfEe glanced at Beatrice, moistened her lips, moved her 
head uneasily as if testing a stiff neck, and said : 

"I don't know why you should ask me, sir. I hardly ever 
speak to Mr. Wimbush. He doesn't come into my work at all, 
it wouldn't be natural if he did. Mrs. Burnett, she might know. 
I really couldn't tell you if Mr. Wimbush is safe with children, 
could I, Beattie?" 

Beatrice did not answer, and Efiie seemed to be so flustered 
that Timothy let the matter drop. He made a mental note, 
however, to ask Mrs. Burnett and was reminded of it the next 
morning when, on emerging from his bedroom, he found her on 
her hands and knees blocking the doorway. Complimenting 
them all on their kindness to the children, he observed that he 
was glad that Wimbush had taken such a fancy to them. 

''Well, sir," said Mrs. Burnett smiling radiantly, "He have 
five of his own, so two more don't make much difference. They 
need a man, sir, boys do, as knows the meaning of discipline, 
otherwise they'd grow up nohow, which isn't to say you 
couldn't do it yourself, sir, only it has to be someone they can 
respect." 

Timothy agreed. "Is Wimbush a strict disciplinarian?" he 
asked, casually. 

"Well, sir, his children all have clean faces and nice habits, 
and that don't come from just leaving Nature to take her 
course." 

Timothy wished he hadn't consulted Mrs. Burnett. 

"I fancy that you and I were brought up more strictly than 
the children of today," he said. "The latest theory is to let them 
do as they like." 

"You're right, sir," said Mrs. Burnett warmly, "and a great 
pity it is. But you needn't be afraid that Wimbush holds with 
them notions. He's old'fashioned. You can trust him to do 
what's right by the boys, same as their own father would. If 
you like, sir, I'll say a word to him in private. 'Tisn't fair that a 
gentleman like you should have the worry of walloping 'em." 

"Oh no, no," cried Timothy, dismayed by the turn the 
conversation had taken. "Please don't say anything of the sort.'* 



THE BOAT 155 

Mrs. Burnett promised not to, and with that he had to be 
content. 

The parents' visit was a strain, but Timothy thought that on 
the whole it went off well. The father worked in a baker's shop ; 
the mother stayed at home. Timothy was right in believing they 
would come in their best clothes, and glad that he had put on 
his. They arrived in the early afternoon, and he took them 
round the garden, which, as is the way of gardens, seemed to be 
between seasons, the spring flowers being over, and the 
summer flowers not yet out. Mr. Kimball was a sweet-pea 
fancier, and knew more about them than Timothy knew of all 
of the rest of the world's flora put together. Like most experts, 
he had an attitude towards his subject which no amateur could 
hope to enter into; the beauty of the flowers he took for 
granted; what interested him was their size, shape, colour, the 
difficulties attendant on rearing them, their habits of growth 
and above all their prize-winning capacities. But even this last 
was devoid of excitement for him; the thrill of the prize w^as 
subordinated to and almost lost in the various technical points 
necessary to secure it. The winning of the award was not so 
much a crowning glory as the logical outcome of having fulfilled 
all the conditions, and he expatiated at equal length on Mariposa 
which had taken several first prizes and on Wolverhampton 
Wonder which, owing to an exaggeration of certain qualities, 
attractive to the public but fatal to the true harmony and 
balance of the bloom, was never more than Highly Commended. 
Timothy listened, bored as one must be with an accumulation 
of details outside the grasp of one's mind, but respectful, 
because he recognised in Mr. Kimball's dispassionate approach 
to his hobby the signs of an austere idealism which was lacking 
in his own art. From time to time Mrs. Kimball supplied the 
personal touch that her husband had left out — ''Mr. Kimball 
stayed up until three o'clock the night he thought Bradford 
Belle had caught cold," and so on, but he clearly deplored these 
womanly intrusions, and quickly elbowed them out of the 
conversation. 

When they came to die children, it was her turn; and 
Timothy soon saw that both parents had a different attitude to 
them from the judicial temper Mr. Kimball kept for his sweet 



156 THE BOAT 

peas. All the family had tea in the drawing-room with Timothy. 
Effie, bringing it in, contrived to suggest by her deportment that 
their presence there was highly irregular ; carrying the tray, she 
steered her way between them as though they were recently 
imported pieces of furniture designed to trip her up; and 
Gerald's wistful question, 'Why is she going away? Isn't she 
going to stay and have tea with us?' she woundingly ignored. 

Timothy heard many tales about the children punctuated 
with ''Didn't you, Gerald?" and "Speak up, Billy, he isn't 
usually so shy," and shared their embarrassment. If only they 
could all put off their company manners and change into their old 
clothes! But no; this was a prestige occasion, and the more 
earnestly that Timothy hunted for a common ground of 
experience — the trials of travelling in war-time, the shortage of 
foodstuffs — an unlucky gambit for it turned out that the 
Kimballs had brought masses of food with them, which, out of 
delicacy, they had not, so to speak, declared — the more self- 
conscious, the more sharply aware of personal, family, and class 
rivalry they all became. It was soon revealed to Timothy that the 
Kimballs, in casting their children upon the w^orld, were doing 
the world a favour, which they expected the world to acknow- 
ledge; and to the Kimballs that Timothy was a harassed, over- 
worked bachelor, with a beautiful house and an extensive and 
well-kept garden which he was, from motives of public spirit, 
putting at the disposal of a class of people who would never 
otherwise have enjoyed such privileges. 

Hollower grew the voices, more careful the accents, more 
constrained the gestures ; politeness caught them in its vice and 
was cramping their every thought when Billy, who for half an 
hour had been denied every outlet which his nature craved, 
suddenly dropped his tea-cup. Catching a chair leg it broke in 
pieces. Splayed brown fingers of tea ran across the carpet, and 
Billy raised a tremulous wail in which, after a second's study 
of the faces round him, Gerald joined. To Timothy it seemed 
the happiest sound he had heard since he came to Upton. At 
once the knot of tension broke; Mrs. Kimball, between scold- 
ings, soothings and apologies, gave expert advice as to how to 
deal with tea-stains; everyone rushed about, dishcloths were 
fetched, mopping operations started, fragments of tea-cup 



THE BOAT 157 

collected, smiles broke out on every face, and Billy, from being 
the villain became the hero of the hour. Only a small disaster 
is necessary, reflected Timothy, to deliver us from ourselves. 

After a tour of the house, which they extravagantly admired, 
Mr. and Mrs. Kimball returned to the kitchen, and later 
Timothy drove them to the railway station. The prospect of 
reaching home at two in the morning did not daunt them; they 
declared they had never spent such a happy day. 

After this the boys lost their shyness of Timothy, and when 
they spied him in the garden, they would hurl themselves upon 
him or ambush him from behind trees, armed with wooden 
models of sawn-off shot guns; a tremendous barking as of 
machine-gun fire betrayed their presence, and then the two 
gunmen would rush out and tell Timothy he was dead. If he 
lay down on the ground and shut his eyes they were transported 
with joy, and danced a war-dance over him. They did not take 
such liberties with Wimbush, though it was he who had pro- 
vided them with their weapons, remarking to Timothy, ''They 
can't begin too young, they can't begin too young." 

Of one person on Timothy's premises they never lost their 
awe, and that was Nelson. Timothy saw but little of Nelson; he 
had his own times for coming and going and often his new, 
sleek, shiny car, so reminiscent of him, never left the shed for 
days together. But occasionally he was to be seen stalking about 
the stable yard, exuding majesty, or standing with Wimbush, 
who was a friend of his, in wordless conversation, for neither of 
them seemed to speak, though each of them looked as though 
something the other had said had exhausted the subject, 
whatever it was, and left them both with their worst fears 
realized. Even Timothy could never quite repress sensations of 
guilt when Nelson hove into view, and the little boys, so 
Timothy learnt, were so alarmed by their first encounter with 
him that Billy was unable to eat his dinner. 

Timothy, too, had reason for despondency. The war news 
was as bad as it could be, and he himself had received a private 
blow which increased his feeling of uncertainty- and insecurity-. 
The Broadside had written to say that in view of the paper 
shortage they could no longer find space for his weekly "Pic- 



158 THE BOAT 

tures of Britain" feature; they hoped that he would occasionally 
contribute an article, but that was all they could promise him. 

For nearly fifteen years Timothy had been writing regularly 
for the Broadside. Its columns conveyed prestige, and his 
association with the paper had become so much a part of his 
life and mental habits that he could not imagine himself without 
it. They did not pay very much, it is true, but with taxation at its 
present level and several of his investments suffering a wartime 
shrinkage, the weekly five guineas had become an object. 
Besides the job was a 'reserved occupation' and carried with it 
quite a generous petrol allowance in excess of the basic ration ; 
without it he might be directed down a coal mine, or, even if 
allowed to stay above ground, find himself more than ever cut 
off from the outside world. 

Events move quickly in war time; his next article, the Editor 
regretfully informed him, must be his last. 

What should be his final subject? Perhaps it was as well that 
his job was coming to an end, for he had already exhausted all 
the 'sights' — houses, castles, abbeys, churches, beauty-spots 
and the reflections on England's greatness that they inspired — 
in a radius of thirty miles of Upton. There still remained one, 
the most obvious of them all. Yet for reasons much less obvious 
he had not included it in his survey ; he had always put off going 
there. 

Welshgate Hall was fifteen miles away. It was never open to 
the public, but from certain points of vantage, he had been told, 
a good view of it could be obtained. Timothy's mind began to 
consider its pictorial possibilities. ''Welshgate Hall, a hideous 
example of the worst period of English architecture, 'una vera 
porcheria,' as the Italians say, is the property of a Mrs. Lam- 
pard, a woman who would scarcely stop short of murder to 
attain her ends. Having broken up her husband's first marriage, 
and sent the unhappy widow post-haste to the grave, she had 
the effrontery to return to his house and adopt airs and what 
for want of a better word I must call graces, which would have 
sat ill on a woman of such proved probity as Queen Victoria 
herself. A petty tyrant of the countryside, she used her wealth 
and influence to uproot the flower of freedom wherever l t 
raised its head — especially in the monstrous conservatories — 



THE BO At 159 

fungus-growths, glassy sheets of toadstool which clisligure the 
already sick'making brickwork of Welshgate Hall." 

Timothy pondered. Yes, it would be a revenge, a rich 
revenge. It would teach her to ignore a distinguished writer who 
had once entertained her lavishly at the Villa Lucertola. 

It was Beatrice and Effie's afternoon out; they were going to 
the cinema in Swirrelsford. He would have liked to take them 
with him but did not want to ask them to change their plans. 
Lately they had seemed reluctant to accompany him, and 
Damaris and Chloe had dropped out of his pictures. Never 
mind; he could invent their comments, as he had often done 
before. 'Is this Welshgate Hall? Why, it looks like a work- 
house!" Hitherto his pictures of Britain had been discreetly 
laudatory. Would the editor object if the last essay in the series 
was less favourable? Well, he would have to print it, Timothy's 
swan-song, and must shrug his shoulders if its tone was a little 
tart. ''What hast thou done for me, England, my England?" he 
thought, his eye catching the bamboo clump where the boat 
house lurked. "I have written thee up in twenty-six articles, and 
what is my reward ? The sack. My life since I left Italy has been a 
continual struggle," he thought resentfully. "Everyone con- 
spires to thwart me; only Mrs. Purbright understands me." 

Gerald and Billy were playing on the lawn. What a business 
it had been to find someone to look after them for the after- 
noon ! Usually, when Beatrice and Effie went out, he stayed in to 
keep an eye on the children, and give them their tea ; that was no 
great hardship for everything was left ready for him; he only 
had to boil the kettle. But today he simply must go out, it was 
his only chance of seeing Welshgate Hall, for the article must 
be in by Monday. Wimbush had kindly ransacked the village 
for volunteers; Timothy had offered a handsome reward; but 
no one would give up her Saturday afternoon. Eventually J^lrs. 
Burnett's niece had promised to come. She had promised to 
come at two o'clock: it was now nearly half-past and there was 
still no sign of her. He dared not wait any longer. 

He walked across the lawn to give a last word of caution to 
the two little boys. Shouting their battle-cries, they raced 
towards him. For a moment Timothy pretended to be dead. 
Gerald sat on his chest and Billy on his feet; their small tists 



160 



THE BOAT 



pommelled him, their excited voices uttered the most fearful 
threats. Scramibling to his feet and shaking off the grass, for the 
lawn had been newly mown, he told them that a nice lady would 
soon be coming to play with them, and then put them through 
their catechism. 

*' Where are you not to go?" 

*'Not on the road," said Gerald promptly, and Billy echoed, 
jumping about, "not on the road, not on the road." 

''And where else?" 

''Not near the river." 

"And where else?" 

"Not inside the boathouse." This was a routine answer, for 
the boat-house v/as kept locked. Gerald paused and said, in his 
lilting, plangent voice, "Why won't you let us go inside the 
boat-house, Mr. Casson?" 

Timothy hesitated. There were several reasons for forbidding 
the boys the boat-house, but the chief one was that he did not 
much want to go there himself. Since the evacuees arrived he 
had not bestowed upon his treasure so much as a single glance. 

"I'll take you some time," he temporized. 

"Now! Now!" they chorused, clinging to him, but he shook 
his head. 

The memory of their clutching fingers and teasing, pleading 
faces lingered with him as with surreptitious glances at the 
map — for maps were suspect in the hands of private persons — 
he nosed his way along the lanes in what he believed to be the 
direction of Welshgate Hill. The signposts had been uprooted ; 
the hedges were high; the fifteen miles seemed more like fifty. 
Suddenly there was an ominous hiss, a spiteful exhalation as 
though Destiny were discharging her ill-humour at him. The 
car listed and limped and mutely declared itself to be no longer 
his servant. 

Timothy was an inexpert mechanic, and by the time he had 
changed the wheel it hardly seemed worth while going on. But 
he would have to rejoin the main road. Where was it? He drove 
on and presently came to a high arch framing a gateway with a 
lodge on each side of it. The wrought iron gates stood open, 
and just inside a man was sitting at a table. 

Timothy went up to him, but before he could ask the way the 



THE BOAT 161 

man said, ''Did you wish to see the Hall, sir? I'm afraid it's 
just on closing time." 

Timothy noticed a roll of tickets and a pie-dish half full of 
silver coins. 

*'Why, what place is this?" he asked. 

The man looked at him in surprise. 

'It's Welshgate Hall, sir. It's open today for the Queen's 
Nurses. Pity you didn't come earlier. It's never been shown to 
the public before." 

"Could I just drive up to the door?" Timothy asked, trying 
to conceal his disappointment. 

"If you think it's worth two bob, sir," the man grinned. 
"Only you must be out again by five o'clock. The orders were 
strict. You won't let me down, will you?" 

Timothy promised not to. 

Welshgate Hall was a Palladian house with a portico, 
reminding Timothy of the Villa Malcontenta, near Venice, 
but much larger. Three rows of windows with nine windows to 
each row stretched across the front. It lacked the elusive beauty 
of Malcontenta; Palladio's inspired mathematics had here been 
reduced to a formula; but it was an imposing structure. Beneath 
the great portico was a door-way tall as the entrance to a 
baroque church; and this door-way was reached by a double 
flight of steps curving up from either side, rather small 
for the size of the facade but intimate and friendly against the 
impersonal expanse of stone. It intrigued his eye and invited 
him to mount; but was it worth while, to go in for five minutes ? 

While he debated, the figure of a girl came towards him 
from the opposite side of the drive. She was making for the 
staircase, but when she saw him she hesitated and then came 
up to him. 

"Did you want to see over the house?" she said. 

She was slender and pale-skinned, with dark grey eyes that 
were full of light. 

Timothy told her of his misadventures, to which she listened 
as sympathetically as though no one had ever had a puncture 
before. "And now I'm afraid it's too late," he wound up, and 
the stable clock, striking five with a high, unfamiliar note, gave 
point to his words. 



162 THE BOAT 

"Oh no," she said, ''you must see the house now that you've 
come all this way — from Upton, I think you said? And we've 
had so few people, we hoped for many more, it's because of 
the petrol rationing, I expect. Aren't you tired? Wouldn't you 
like some tea? I was just going to have mine." 

Now Timothy realized that she must be the daughter of the 
house. He hesitated. Confronted with the idea of meeting Mrs. 
Lampard, he had an impulse to flee. 

''Mother had to go away for the week-end," she said, "and 
I'm all alone, but if it wouldn't bore you, I'm sure she would 
like you to stay to tea." 

She spoke miore formally, as though shouldering the dignity 
and responsibility of a hostess. I must seem very old to her, 
Timothy thought; that's why she feels she can ask me; her 
mother would never let her entertain a younger man alone. 

"It will be a great pleasure," he said. 

"And afterwards I'll take you round the house. There's not 
much to see, really. Some fairly good pictures and some French 
furniture, if you like that. I do, because you see, I was born in 
France and I love it. I think I mind about France more than 
anything else in the war, so far. I say I have French blood in my 
veins, but Mother swears we haven't. Are you fond of France, 
Mr.— ?" 

"Casson." 

She turned, to him, startled, and her hand, which was touching 
the knob of the front door, dropped to her side. 

"Then you must be the Mr. Casson." 

"I shouldn't think so," said Timothy, smiling. 

"Oh, this is so exciting! What a pity Mother isn't here. 
We've heard such a lot about you, but I never thought you 
would be so nice." 

"I've heard about you, too," said Timothy, "and I must say 
I did expect to find you nice." 

"I'm afraid I sounded rude," she said penitently, but still 
without opening the door. "It was such a shock to find myself 
with the hero of a cause celebre!" 

"You won't want to have me to tea, now," said Timothy. 

"Of course, of course, all the more!" 

She pushed the door open and led him into a square, lofty 



THE BOAT 163 

hall. 'Tra simply dying to talk to you. We shall have so much 
to say.'' She hesitated. 'Look, that's supposed to be a Van- 
dyck," and she pointed to a full length portrait of a man in a 
ruff glowing richly against the grisaille. "But I'll tell you about 
him afterwards. Now let's have tea." He followed her down a 
saloon lined with pictures to its cornice. The three chan^ 
deliers were all turned on, for the glass roof which should have 
lighted the gallery had been blacked out. Ahead, the light of day 
struggled through a doorway. This led to a small room, hung 
with crimson damask. A silver kettle gleamed among the tea- 
things. 

**You know," she confided to him as they sat down, ''I've 
always been on your side." 

''How?" asked Timothy. 

"Well, it sounds funny, doesn't it? but I mean about the 
boat." 

"Oh, the boat," said Timothy. 

At the sound of that short word constraint fell upon them, 
only slightly eased by the ceremonious handing of plates. 

"Perhaps you'd rather not talk about it?" Miss Lampard 
said, anxiously. "Would you rather just talk about the house, 
or—" 

"Ourselves?" suggested Timothy. 

She smiled delightfully at him and then looked serious again. 

"Oh, but this is such an opportunity!" She watched 
Timothy's face, where suspicion and resentment still 
smouldered. "And I've always admired your writing so much — 
not that my opinion is worth anything." 

When Timothy told her his job was coming to an end, she 
looked quite miserable. 

"Oh, and what will you do now? It's more than ever impor- 
tant — " she broke off, knitting her white brows. "You see, it's 
all been such a muddle! Twenty years ago, before I was born, 
nobody would have said a word — but now the fishing has 
become quite sacred, and of course it's to Mother's interest it 
should be — she gets such colossal rents! But perhaps you're a 
Socialist?" she added. " I know that many writers are." 

Timothy disclaimed being a Socialist, but Miss Lampard 
looked thoughtful. 



164 THE BOAT 

** Sometimes I think one ought to be. Well, every kind of 
suggestion has been made — like certain days of the week, and 
certain times of the year, being set aside for you to row on — and 
well, perhaps I oughtn't to say this — your being asked to rent a 
certain stretch of the river as though it were a fishing — and 
then, though they all say it's a shame you shouldn't row, they 
disagree among themselves and then seem to think it's you 
who have turned the proposals down, as if you were a kind of 
enemy who had come amongst us. It's so unfair ! 'But he'll never 
consent to that,' they say, or 'it's no good asking him thaty 
he'll be sure to refuse!' I said to Mother, 'But he's never been 
consulted!' Mother's a darling, you know, and I'd kill anyone 
who said anything else, but she belongs to her generation, she 
doesn't — how shall I put it ? think that a rule should have excep- 
tions and she doesn't like modern ways — she was so carefully 
brought up herself — but she isn't a bit hard, I should hate you 
to think she was." 

"I gather the decision doesn't really lie with her," said 
Timothy. 

"No, but of course she could influence them — they're all her 
tenants, except you. They'd do what she wanted, no one can 
help it. She has a way with her, you know. But I shall tell her," 
her daughter went on firmly, "I shall tell her you came and how 
nice you were, and then she'll do something about it, I'm sure 
she will. I shall tell her you're not in the least like what people 
think." 

"What do they think?" asked Timothy. 

"Oh, they've got it all wrong. You don't mind me being 
frank, do you, they think you're an eccentric kind of person, 
half a foreigner, and perhaps a sort of revolutionary, you know 
— who wants to upset established customs — and turn the valley 
into — well, a sort of Lido, I suppose, destroying its character, 
and so on. At least I think that's what they think. I hardly ever 
see them. Mother has so many tenants." 

"I suppose she has," said Timothy. 

"Yes, and you wouldn't believe what a nuisance they can be 
at times, wanting so many repairs done and never satisfied. 
That's why I am so excited to meet you, because you really are 
someone, and not just a tenant. Are you going to write about 



THE BOAT 165 

our house?" 

''Well, I might." 

''How thrilling. And will you put me in?" 
"Perhaps in a very veiled way. Should you mind?" 
"I should adore it. And Mother will be pleased, because 
she's very proud of the house, though she pretends not to be. 
Between ourselves, that was why she went away. She couldn't 
bear the idea of people she'd never seen tramping round and 
perhaps stealing the writing-paper — you know, to look as if 
they'd stayed here. But you won't put that in your article, will 
you? How will you begin? 'At the door I was met by a withered 
crone?'" 

"I shall stick strictly to the truth." 

"Well, have you had everything you want? Another cake? 
another cup of tea? Then let's begin." She rose. "This is called 
the Ambassador's room. ..." 

Timothy did not get away unscathed. The gate-keeper 
upbraided him for having outstayed his time. "She's a regular 
madam," he said, alluding to his employer; "she'll have me on 
the mat for this all right." But a tip seemed to appease him, and 
Timothy drove back through the slanting sunshine aware of a 
more real peace than he had known for months. Fostered by the 
feeling that each in thought had been unfair to the other, the 
new acquaintance had ripened into friendship. To Timothy 
she seemed a delightful child, touchingly vulnerable and 
innocent, and he believed he had made a good impression 
on her, for she hung on his lips and laughed at his feeblest 
sallies. He had been flattered, and for a long time no one had 
flattered him except Mrs. Purbright, with whose appreciation, 
generous as it was, there sometimes mingled a note of warning, 
like the sound of a bell-buoy on a calm day. Most of the young 
men she knew spoke slightingly of France, which hurt her; she 
pined to return to it and would have gone but for the cruel turn 
the war had taken. And Timothy found himself confiding in her 
in a way that wouldn't have seemed possible a few hours earher. 
It was as if the accumulated small grievances of his life at Upton, 
instead of barring his spirit's egress, now urged it to freedom. 
They promised to meet each odier again; he was to come to 



166 THE BOAT 

Welshgate Hall, and she, with her mother's sanction, to the Old 
Rectory. As to the question of the boat, that could be regarded 
as already settled. 

The high tenor note of the stable clock had sounded seven 
times before he left. Already he was revolving in his mind 
phrases for his last article. It should have an elation, a con- 
fidence that none of the others had had ; an ecstasy of farewell. 
Ave atque vale! The spirit of England in a Palladian setting; 
our gift for borrowing and transforming what was best in the 
art of other countries ; a great house where the name of France 
was held in equal honour with our ov/n. Timothy had never 
had a special feeling for France before; its people, he thought, 
were ill-tempered, its art over-spiced with cleverness; geo- 
graphically it was an unavoidable stepping-stone to Italy. Now 
he remembered its great services to civilisation; its ceaseless 
intellectual energy; its sense of style, more tenacious even than 
its sense of beauty; its magnificent refusal to be over-governed, 
its wholesome instinct to choose corruption, in which there is 
always life, in preference to tyranny, which spells death. Yes, 
Welshgate Hall was a monument to France as well as to 
England, and in its serene survival, its evident indestructibility, 
was a symbol ready to his hand. Hitherto he had always 
avoided the topical as exotic to his mind, which flourished in 
the climate of the past; now he would explore the present in all 
its most hopeful implications, guided by the genius loci of 
Welshgate Hall — a nymph with a French name, but was she 
really flesh and blood, or a spirit, a gracious ghost from the 
time of Louis Quinze wafted across the water with those 
commodes and bergeres and escritoires, whose gilded gleam 
gave back the evening gold, poured molten in through the tall 
windows ? 

Here shortly would be entertained, so his guide told him — if 
guide she was — those members of the Free French Forces who 
had risked all to throw in their lot with freedom, and the 
furniture would glow again to hear its own tongue spoken, and 
feel its long exile ended, by theirs, which had begun — no, not 
begun, for here, at Welshgate in England, they would be at 
home. 

Savouring the enchantment of the hour he drove slowly, for 



THE BOAT 167 

there was no hurry to get back. 

Turning into the stable yard, he saw Wimbush and Nelson, 
deep in wordless confabulation. He was in no way surprised to 
see them, and having put the car away he called out ''Good 
evening" and was making for the side^door when the two men 
came towards him. 

''Excuse me, sir," said Nelson, in a tone more ominous than 
he had ever used to Timothy before, "but I take it you haven't 
heard the news." 

"What news?" asked Timothy, his heart sinking. 

Nelson and Wimbush exchanged glances. 

"It's to do with the boys, sir, Gerald and Billy Kimball," said 
the policeman, eyeing Timothy closely. 

"What about them? Please tell me. Nelson." 

"Well, sir, they've disappeared. At least, they can't be 
found." 

Timothy stood still, twisting his hands. 

"But I left them playing on the lawn." 

"What time would that be, sir?" asked Nelson, producing his 
notebook. 

Timothy told him. 

The policeman nodded as if the hour confirmed his worst 
fears. 

"Was there anyone with them when you left?" 

Feeling and looking like a criminal, Timothy explained that 
Mrs. Burnett's niece had promised to come and keep an eye on 
them. "I left the side door on the latch so that she could get in," 
he added. 

Nelson looked up from his note^book, and said," Would it 
surprise you to hear that Miss Cornett, Mrs. Burnett's niece, 
failed to arrive?" 

"But she promised faithfully to come," said Timothy. 

"On inquiring at her house," said the policeman, "she stated 
that she had forgotten the whole matter and gone out for a 
walk." 

"With young Tom Sutton," put in Wimbush. 

"He confirmed her statement," Nelson said. "The last person 
to see the boys was yourself, sir." 

"Then who—?" began Timothy. 



168 THE BOAT 

''The alarm was given by Beatrice, Miss Kinghorn, I should 
say, who informed me at my cottage shortly after returning 
from a visit to the cinema at Swirrelsford about 6.30 p.m. 
She said she could find the boys nowhere, and asked me to 
assist in the search, with which I at once complied." 

''And you couldn't find them?" said Timothy stupidly. 

"I obtained the help of Mr. Wimbush, and together we made 
a thorough search of the house, premises and pleasure-grounds, 
but we could find no trace of them." Nelson paused. "We 
examined the river bank, but there were no signs of footmarks, 
discarded clothing or anything to indicate a tragedy." 

Timothy said with an effort. "Did you look inside the boat' 
house?" 

"We went there first, sir. But it was locked." 

"Those old boys always had a rare fancy for the boat- 
house," Wimbush put in. "Twas because you told 'em not to, 
like as not, sir. Boys will be boys." 

In the context this welWorn phrase seemed to Timothy 
unbearably pathetic, and his voice shook as he said, "Had 
anyone seen them in the street?" 

"I made inquiries in the vicinity, but failed to receive a 
satisfactory answer. Children were seen, but the passers-by 
could not indentify the boys in question." 

There was a long pause. The two men seemed to expect 
Timothy to contribute something to the situation, but his mind 
would not work on it. 

"Is there anything more we can do?" he asked. 

"I telegraphed to the next of kin, in this case the parents," 
said Nelson. "I used your telephone, sir." 

"Quite right," said Timothy. "How did you know the 
address?" 

"Miss Kinghorn was able to supply it, sir." 

Wimbush sniffed. 

"I'm afraid the girls will be terribly upset," Timothy said. 

"Effie did rather give way," said Wimbush, "which is not to 
be surprised at, being so tender-hearted, but the other one really 
created more, which I own I didn't expect." 

"I advised weak tea with plenty of sugar," said Nelson, "for 
shock." 



THE BOAT 169 

'Til go in and see them," said Timothy. 

Beatrice and Effie were sitting in the kitchen red-eyed and 
speechless, Beatrice still catching her breath. They had nothing 
to add to Nelson's story, though they were loud in condemna- 
tion of Mrs. Burnett's niece, of whom, it seemed, they had 
expected nothing better. They were inclined to blame Timothy 
for not waiting longer, but not as much as he blamed himself. 
The three of them mingled self-reproaches with half-hearted 
surmises as to what might have happened; they even argued a 
little, and then fell silent. What they all feared, they dared not 
say. 

Timothy wandered out of the kitchen into the house, which 
wore a silent, stricken air: he did not realize how much the little 
boys, though they were not encouraged to come 'his way,' had 
peopled it. He went from room to room, looking perfunctorily 
into cupboards and under beds; he went into their room, but 
retreated hastily, so painfully did the sight of their small 
belongings affect him — their pocket-knives and pistols, the 
coloured stones they had collected, the twist of paper which 
still had some sweets packed into the corner. Remembering 
their passion for ambush and concealment, he climbed on to the 
roof, where they had been strictly told not to go, wanly hoping 
that the rat-tat of a machine-gun would greet him from behind 
some chimneystack. But all was silence and emptiness and 
thick, level sunshine. From this height the boat-house, its 
pointed roof rising steeply from among the sheltering bamboos, 
looked like a little chapel; the drunken rocks across the river 
were a deep rose; the untroubled beauty of the evening hour 
was like something aimed at his heart. 

Closing the trap-door behind him, he returned to the little 
boys' bedroom, feeling that some effluence of their presence 
might linger there, and more than ever ashamed that it was such 
a poor room; for he had set aside the two best rooms for the 
week-end visitors who never came. Not seeing very clearly he 
turned on the light. How untidy the room was ; Beatrice, whose 
especial charge the little boys were, had always kept it neat. 
He pulled open a drawer in the drab-painted chest of drawers. 
It was empty. Another gave the same result. He was puzzled, 
and a suspicion, as yet a feeling rather than a thought, began to 



170 THE BOAT 

form in his mind. A moment later his mind grasped it. 

The boys had not disappeared, they had been taken away. 

As if that were a worse fate, he found himself trembling. 
Kidnapped! The word had horrible associations. It had gone 
screaming through the nineteen-thirties, warning mankind that 
the age of clemency was over. To confirm his fears he walked 
across to the bed. The coverlet had been disarranged. He 
felt underneath it for their nightshirts. They were not there, so 
he put his hand under the pillow; and as he did so something 
fluttered from the back of the pillow on to the floor, away from 
him. It was a piece of paper, he found when he got round to it, 
scribbled on in pencil. Holding it to the light he read: 
We have taken the boys away. 
You will hear from us later. 

Mr. and Mrs. Kimball. 

So intense was Timothy's relief that he felt as though the 
boys had been given back to him from the dead. Nay, more, as 
if they had been created on the spot, miraculously, to give joy 
to their ageing parents and to him. But Beatrice and Effie 
received the news in a different spirit. Joy lasted long enough 
to dry their tears; then they became indignant: a little with 
Nelson, who had told them to touch nothing in the room, 
thereby preventing them from making the discovery; a little 
with him, for forestalling them; but most of all with the parents 
who had given them such a fright. 'Teople like that didn't 
ought to have children." Soon Timothy began to share 
their indignation, for really the Kimballs had behaved in a most 
outrageous manner; whatever they might plead in their letter, 
nothing could excuse them. 

Pleased to have succeeded where the arm of the law had 
failed, Timothy went out into the stable yard where Nelson, to 
fill in time, was making a round of the loose-boxes. Nelson 
listened with an impassive face, as if surprise was an emotion 
unbecoming to his calling. ''It's not the first time," he said 
darkly. "It often happens, and mark my words it will happen 
again. They don't like them out of their sight — 'tis only 
natural." 

"Yes," said Timothy, "but the boys seemed so happy." 

"That's what you think," said Nelson, looking down at 



THE BOAT 171 

Timothy with a kindly smile. 'Tm not saying they weren't, I'm 
far from saying they weren't. This is a good home, sir, and let 
me tell you I've seen a good many. But who can tell what goes 
on in a kid's head, sir? Why, they might have thought you was 
a kind of Bluebeard, for instance." 

Wimbush, who had been listening, said warmly, ''Mr. 
Casson laid hisself out to please they little devils. 'Tisn't every 
gentleman, let alone a gentleman who does head work, as would 
lie down on the ground and let 'em mess him about, same 
as Mr. Casson used to." 

''Doesn't do to be too familiar with people of that sort," said 
the policeman. "They don't appreciate it, and only take 
advantage." 

"That's right," said Wimbush. "When they come from 
Birmingham you don't know where they come from." 

Nelson agreed that the Midlands were incalculable, and 
turned to Timothy. 

"All's well that ends well, as they say, sir. Though we've 
had a lot of trouble for nothing, and on a Saturday afternoon, 
too. But there, a policeman's time's everybody's time. I shan't 
say nothing about your little mistake, sir." 

"Oh, what mistake was that, Nelson?" Timothy reviewed a 
lifetime of mistakes. 

"Well, touching the things in the boys' room, sir, might be 
called obstructing a constable in the execution of his duty. 
But you didn't mean any harm, and it's all turned out for the 
best." 

"I daresay Mr. Casson won't be sorry to see the last of 
them," said Wimbush. "They treated him that rough. And I 
shan't have 'em trampling down my flower-beds. But there's one 
as will miss them, and that's the other one in the kitchen." 

"You mean Beatrice?" 

Wimbush nodded, as if he could not bring himself to utter 
Beatrice's name. "She'll cry her eyes out," he added, not 
without satisfaction. 

"These unmarried women have feelings that you and I don't 
know about," said Nelson. "I could tell you a thing or two." 

Wimbush turned out to be right. Beatrice's eves on the 



172 THE BOAT 

morrow were still red and swollen, and to her habitual 
taciturnity was added a bitter sense of loss and grievance. To 
Timothy the house seemed strangely silent and under- 
. populated, but he scarcely had time to miss the children, so 
busy was he writing his article in praise of Welshgate Hall. 
The war had more meaning for him in proportion as he could 
visualize it as a union instead of a conflict ; and in this farewell 
essay there was a double reconciliation, for each glowing 
sentence took him nearer, he felt, to an understanding, an 
entente cordiale, with Mrs. Lampard, and was musical with the 
plash of oars. For surely, surely after this she would not deny 
him the boat? 

He laid the praise on thick, awarding it equally to France and 
England, co-inheritors of the civilization enshrined in this 
stately and splendid monument, which was so well worth 
dying for. And if it was worth dying for, so, by implication, 
was its owner, thanks to whose care and taste it still maintained 
undimmed its ancient glory; thanks to whose generosity the 
public could see it as it used to be, with the bloom of private 
ownership still on it, an organism, a living entity, not a State- 
owned museum from which the soul had fled. The soul which 
might be symbolised — here Timothy paused, for he was en- 
veloping Desiree in a plethora of symbols — by the guide or 
sprite (was she really there in the sunlight, or did he only see her 
in chambers where the curtains were half-drawn?) who seemed 
to accompany him from saloon to staircase and from whose 
lips the French language — evoked by so much that they saw 
and touched and talked about — floated as easily as her own. 

Carrying his last article to the post box, Timothy felt 
triumphant rather than sad, for in his mind, at his writing 
table, he had brought together so miany opposites that it was 
like a fulfilment of his personality. The world might not be at 
peace with itself, but he was at peace with the world. 

Monday morning brought no letter from Mr. and Mrs. 
Kimball, but it did bring Mrs. Burnett, and Timothy, although 
still in the mood of finding everything for the best, felt he must 
ask her for an explanation of her niece's conduct. 

Usually brimming with good humour, Mrs. Burnett seemed 



THE BOAT 173 

to think the query rather tactless and parried it more than once, 
by the simple expedient of scrubbing without answering, 
before she faced it. 

"Well, sir, of course it was her day off, like everyone else's." 

''I know that, Mrs. Burnett, and it was very good of her to 
say she would give up her afternoon. Only I wish she would 
either have come, or let us know that she couldn't." 

*'Yes, sir, it's a good deal to expect of a girl to give up her 
afternoon out, and my niece is a good worker, there's no 
denying that." 

''I'm sure she is, only she said she'd come, and we got rather 
a fright." 

"Well, sir, no one has ever said anything against the girl, and 
I'm sure my sister would be very upset if she thought anything 
had been said. It isn't very nice, especially when you've gone 
out of your way to do a favour, as she had." 

"I appreciate that, Mrs. Burnett. If only she could just have 
let us know!" 

"But she couldn't have stopped them taking them away, 
could she? After all they were the children's parents. She might 
have got mixed up with something nasty, and then what would 
my sister have said?" 

"I know, but that isn't quite the point. She said she would 
come, and — " 

"Well, sir, we're only young once, and there was a kind of 
feeling, all round our way, that it wasn't fair to ask a girl as has 
a steady young man to give up her afternoon to doing what's 
really a nursemaid's duty. There was quite a strong feeling, sir, 
and it's got stronger since what's happened." Mrs. Burnett's 
voice changed and deepened. It registered affront: tears stole 
into it, and a hint of menace. "I think the girl's had a lucky 
escape, sir, and there's many that thinks with me. Mrs. Pilling, 
at the local last night, she came out quite strong. But of course if 
you're not satisfied, sir," here Mrs. Burnett's voice almost 
broke — "well, I should like to give in me notice, that's all." 

Timothy was aghast. 

"Oh please don't do that, Mrs. Burnett." 

"Well, sir, I'll think it over this time, but there's no one can't 
say I don't do a good day's work, and if my niece is to be 



174 THE BOAT 

insulted I shall know where to go." 

**We won't say anything more about it," said Timothy 
soothingly. 

''You may not, sir, but things of this sort don't lie down so 
easily when anyone's been unjustly accused, and there's no 
fire without smoke. There's some as might want to give the 
house a wide berth after what's happened." 

*'Well, it wasn't our fault," said Timothy defensively. 

'Tm not saying it was, sir," said Mrs. Burnett, and resumed 
her scrubbing. 

With quickened step and smarting, spirit Timothy retreated 
from the house. Try as he would, he hadn't been able to per* 
suade Mrs. Burnett that her niece should have kept her word. 
The niece hadn't a leg to stand on, yet somehow her aunt 
had managed to carry the war into his country. The war! 
Better forget it, for this was his first day of freedom, the day he 
had looked forward to and dreaded for so many years, when his 
weekly task was over, his time unmortgaged, his mind un- 
fettered, free to roam where it listed. He leaned on the white 
gate and looked across to the Green with its girdle of Lombardy 
poplars. Where do we go from here? Which way freedom? 
The Swirrelsford bus, always at hand when one wasn't waiting 
for it, stopped on the far side of the road. Some people got out; 
others got in ; the driver seemed to look inquiringly at Timothy. 
On an impulse Timothy signalled to him, jumped on the bus, 
and found himself sitting next to the birdlike, highly finished 
profile of Miss Chadwick. Raising her lorgnon, she said: 

*'Mr. Casson! Whither away?" 

''Nowhere in particular!" he answered gaily. 

"What, nowhere in particular! Not looking for a picture of 
Britain?" 

"I've found it here!" he smiled at her. "But — " and he 
explained his position. 

"You mean that the Broadside has fired you?" 

Timothy laughed. 

"But this is serious. What shall we know of England, who 
only Casson knew? And what will you do now? Join the 
L.D.V.?" 



THE BOAT 175 

''I hadn't thought," said Timothy lamely. 

*'We m^ust rope you in for something. Do you know your 
First Aid?" 

Timothy attempted a joke. 

''Well, I always try to help myself." 

"Ha, ha, your best Broadside manner. But Vm afraid it's 
helping others that matters. You should get in touch with Mrs. 
Harbord." 

'Tm afraid I don't know her." 

''Not know Mrs. Harbord?" 

"No." 

Miss Chadwick thought a moment. 

"There is the factory down the road. They welcome part- 
time workers." 

"With me, it would have to be all or nothing," said Timothy. 

"What about fire-watching?" 

"In the summer?" said Timothy innocently. "I'm afraid I've 
let my fire out." 

Miss Chadwick shook her head, then lowering her voice, she 
said, "What a mysterious business about your evacuees, Mr. 
Casson. So many rumours are going round. What really 
happened?" 

Timothy told her all he knew. 

"But there must be something behind it," insisted Miss 
Chadwick. "If only to allay suspicion you ought to find out. 
Mrs. Pur bright is a friend of yours, we know, a great friend ; 
but unless this is cleared up, she will hardly dare to repeat the 
experiment." 

"I'm not sure I want her to," said Timothy rashly. 

"It isn't for myself I mind," Miss Chadwick went on, "but 
my dear brother would have so hated the idea of anything . . . 
well, unfortunate, happening in his old home. He was a scholar, 
of course, I expect that makes a difference. He shrank from any 
kind of publicity." 

The bus was slowing down, and Timothy saw his chance. 
"This is where I get off," he said, waving Miss Chadwick good- 
bye. What is freedom, unless it enables us to break away from 
disagreeable situations ? All the same, conscious of having made a 
fool of himself, he walked home in a chastened and sober spirit. 



176 THE BOAT 



CHAPTER XII 

Shall I read her the letter, Timothy wondered, shall I just tell 
her its drift, or shall I falsify it? 

He read the letter again. 
"Dear Mr. Casson, 

''We ask you to excuse the liberty we took in taking the 
children away, but after Miss Kinghorn had written to us the 
way she had we couldn't rest. She said not to tell you as it 
would do no good, so I shall only say that someone in your pay 
has threatened to use the children something terrible unless 
they stopped doing something that being children they couldn't 
help doing. It seems funny, doesn't it, after she said that about 
not telling you but she also said that it wasn't any good her 
saying anything but if we complained to you you might send the 
person away. But we shouldn't like to ask you to do that 
knowing the shortage of labour at the present time, also people 
can't help not wanting kids about, they can be a regular nuisance 
at times and some people are real set against them, though kids 
can't help being kids. 

''Our purpose in coming over was really to talk it over with 
you in case some way out could be found, because it isn't your 
fault, sir, you're one of the best and we don't blame you at all. 
But when I come the train was late and we found the boys 
playing on the lawn like you told them to with no one to look 
after them in case anything should have happened to them 
which it might being only children and the river so close, and 
we had to decide in a hurry with only a few minutes left to tell 
the taxi to turn back and catch the train. Mr. Kimball can only 
get away on a Saturday that was partly why we were rushed, 
that and their being no Sunday trains. So we thought what 
would be the best thing and which would give least trouble in 
the long run would be for us to take the children away there and 
then, leaving a note on the pillow as the most likely place. We 
had no thought of giving you anxiety and worry such as you 
must have had judging by your telegram and letter when you 



THE BOAT 177 

kindly sent the boys things back. I am very sorry for that both 
of us and would wish to take the opportunity to thank you for 
all your kindness to the boys whilst under your care. They 
often speak of you and Miss Kinghorn with real love and ask 
when they are going back again, and mention the other person 
who they was evidently more afraid of than you being stricter. 
They never say he laid a finger on them though he sometimes 
spoke rough but you can't tell with boys can you, they're as 
silent as owls if anything's wrong they won't tell on their 
oppressors, it's instinct I suppose like the public-school spirit. 

''But we are very sorry that it happened because otherwise 
the boys couldn't have had a better home nor a kinder friend 
than you and Miss Kinghorn, she was like a mother to them. 
And we apologise and are truly sorry for any inconvenience 
caused by our hasty action trusting you will understand and 
meet as friends after this dreadful war is over. 

''Wishing you always the best, 
"Yours respectfully, 

"Mr. & Mrs. Kimball. 

"P.S. You will be pleased to know the boys are in good 
health and increased weight. They send their love and kisses to 
Miss Kinghorn." 

The kisses, in great numbers, followed. 

Timothy put the letter in his pocket and with no clear plan 
of action went towards the kitchen. 

Bowed over the rolling pin, Beatrice looked very forbidding. 

"I've just had a letter from Mr. and Mrs. Kimball, Beatrice," 
he said, as casually as he could. 

No answer. 

"It's a very nice letter," he persisted, "and there are a lot of 
messages for you." 

"I'm not interested, I'm afraid," said Beatrice, but he saw 
the lines of her face stiffen and her eyes grow more intent. 

He fluttered the letter in her direction, but she kept her eyes 
averted, and he returned it to his pocket. An idea came to him. 

"The whole thing seems to have been a mistake," he said. 
"Mrs. Kimball seems to have had a dream or something — you 
know what mothers are." He paused; Beatrice could not 
possibly know but she might feel flattered to be raised for a 



178 THE BOAT 

moment to the status of raotherhood. ''If any of us had been 
here at the time we could have put everything right. It v^asn't 
our fault that there v^as no one here," he went on, throwing 
Mrs. Burnett's niece to the wolves. 

"That girl deserves to be strangled," said Beatrice, breaking 
silence in a voice cold with hatred. 

*'Oh, we mustn't be hard on her, she's only young. The 
whole thing was so unlucky." Feeling that Beatrice had thawed 
a little he told her something of the circumstances of the 
Kimballs' visit, and then going to the window, on the pretence 
of getting a better light, he read out the parents' tributes to 
her. By a stroke of luck the kisses had a whole page to them' 
selves, so he was able to show her them. 

"What's the good of telling me all this?" said Beatrice in an 
unsteady voice. "It's too late now." 

Now was the moment for Timothy to spring his surprise on 
her. "I don't think so," he said. "I think with a little persuasion 
they'd let the children come back." 

He saw Beatrice struggle with herself and a tear fall on the 
much flattened pastry. 

"I don't know as I want 'em now," she said. "Children 
should be in a happy house. This isn't a happy house." 

"Not happy? Why not?" 

"Because there's people about as don't want it to be." 

"Oh, I'm sure you're wrong, Beatrice." 

"I'm not," she answered stubbornly. "You don't know 
because you live all to yourself among books and papers as has 
no feeling in 'em, and folks with airified voices who pretend 
that nothing matters." (Beatrice must have had in mind some 
former employer ; no one with an airified voice had been to the 
Old Rectory in Timothy's time — he wished they had.) "I don't 
know what Mrs. Kimball dreamed," she went on recklessly, 
turning the slab of pastry over, and rolling it on the other side, 
"but if she dreamed there was someone here who didn't wish 
the children any good, she wasn't far wrong." 

"I'm sure you're mistaken, Beatrice," said Timothy with all 
the firmness he could muster. "You're just imagining things. 
Now do let me write to Mrs. Kimball and say we all hope she 
will let Gerald and Billy come back." 



THE BOAT 179 

For a moment he thought she was going to yield. Then she 
threw up her chin and said, ''You must do as you think best 
sir. But if the children come back / shan't stay. They're well out 
of it, if you ask me." 

Timothy saw her shoulders twitch and heard her snifF before 
he left the kitchen. 

The hum of the mowing-machine tempted him out of doors. 
Wimbush was at the far end of the lawn. In front of him, 
perpetually renewed, a green wave sprang up and broke in a 
foam of daisy-heads upon the grass. The gardener's forehead 
was furrowed and his eyes were bent upon the ground . At sight 
of Timothy his face lit up with smiles. 

"Warm work!" he said, brushing his brow with a brown 
hairy forearm. 'This'U bring out the willow-pattern on you." 

*T know," said Timothy. ''We must get that motor-mower." 

"I don't want no motor-mowers," declared Wimbush. 
"Motor mowers are for young chaps who don't know what 
work is. Commander Bellew he have one, and so do Colonel 
Harbord, he's gone all haywire about grass, they call him 
Colonel Lovelorn. I don't say there's another man would do 
this single-handed; but then, as I say, what's a man for?" 

Timothy could not answer this. 

"I was only saying to Nelson the other day, 'You haven't half 
got a cushy job, standing about at street corners holding your 
hand up.' He didn't like it, sir." 

"I suppose not," said Timothy, doubtfully. 

"He didn't. But bless you, sir, he's a good fellow. Nelson is, 
only he talks too much." 

'^Does he?" exclaimed Timothy, who had never thought of 
Nelson as a chatterbox. 

"Yes, he do, sir, begging your pardon. I said to him straight, 
'If there's any wrong 'uns knocking about round Upton, they'll 
get away while you're shooting your mouth, as the Yankees say.' 
He didn't like it, sir." 

"Well, you were a bit severe, Wimbush." 

"Oh no, sir, he takes it in good part. Why, only yesterday 
he was talking about that sing-song that the L.D.V. and the 
police together are getting up." 



180 THE BOAT 

Wimbush gave Timothy a significant glance and Timothy- 
blushed. 

"I expect I ought to be in the L.D.V., Wimbush. You are, 
aren't you?" 

''They made me corporal first go-ofF and from the onset. 
But it's different for a gentleman working on his head." 

Even Wimbush had to find excuses for Tim.othy. 

"Of course they want every able-bodied man they can get, 
sir," Wimbush went on, ''specially with the news so bad." His 
face brightened. 

"What news?" 

"The Germans have crossed the Seine, and Italy has declared 
war on France." 

"You don't say soV^ cried Timothy, aghast. 

"It's true, sir, I heard it on the wireless. You look all upset, 
sir, but it'll do a lot of good, that news will. It's what the 
country's been waiting for. I wish I was younger." 

"Did you enjoy soldiering in the last war, Wimbush?" 

"I wouldn't have missed it, sir, for all the tea in China." 

Timothy did not answer. Wimbush's comment seemed to 
make nonsense of many of his pet theories. 

"I'm not speaking only for myself," Wimbush went on, as 
though Timothy had accused him of boasting. "We all felt the 
same. I was only saying to Nelson, 'you should be in the 
Forces, a young chap like you, not in the Force.'" 

"Did he like that?" 

"It wouldn't do for a policeman to be taking offence at every 
chance remark," said Wimbush. "Besides, he was approaching 
me about you, sir." 

"About me?" Timothy felt as if he was already half-way to 
prison. 

"To see if you would be interested in the draw, sir." 

"What draw, Wimbush?" 

"It's for the smoking concert. He didn't know if you'd be 
interested, not being in the L.D.V. or the police. So he asked 
me to approach you." 

Wimbush's pause invited Timothy to make the next move; 
"How can I show my interest?" 

"Well, sir," said Wimbush, "there's more ways than one. 



THE BOAT 181 

Some gentlemen buys a ticket; some gives a prize — Captain 
Sturrock have promised a bottle of Scotch — and some — " here 
Wimbush spread his hands out, as if to suggest that the 
generosity of an ingenious patron might take infinite forms. 
Seeing Timothy still look puzzled, he added patiently, "It all 
helps to win the v^ar, sir." 

''Could I contribute something?" asked Timothy, wondering 
if this was right. 

Wimbush looked surprised and slightly shocked. 

**We wouldn't either of us dream of asking you, sir. I hope 
you didn't think that?" 

''Of course not," cried Timothy. "I should be delighted 
to. Would money do?" 

"Nelson wouldn't say 'no' to money," remarked Wimbush 
cautiously. 

Making a rapid calculation, Timothy decided to treble the 
amount of Captain Sturrock's gift. 

"Oh, that's too much, sir, that's more than Mrs. Lampard's 
given." Wimbush allowed Timothy half a second to change his 
mind, and went on, "Nelson, he will be pleased. 'Tisn't every' 
one wants to give money to the police," he added slyly. "Some 
people might call it corruption. As I was saying to Nelson, 'Now 
we know where you got the money to buy that smart car of 
yours.'" 

"Did he like that?" asked Timothy. 

"Well, he turned a bit red. But as I said to him, "Tisn't as 
if you were a working man earning your daily bread. You're 
paid out of the rates by such as me and Mr. Casson, and we 
have a right to know where the money goes,' I said. He couldn't 
deny it." 

"Well, I hope the party will be a great success," said Timothy. 
He pulled out his pocket-book. "Can I trust you to give Nelson 
this?" 

For a moment Wimbush looked grave; then he burst out 
laughing. 

"Ha, ha, sir, you can see a joke as well as anyone." 

I wonder if he liked that, thought Timothy, walking away. 

"I hope you aren't joining the hue and cry against the 



182 THE BOAT 

Italians," wrote Tyro. ''All this talk about the 'stab in the back' 
simply sickens me. Has any nation ever hesitated to stab another 
in the back? Did Napoleon wait for Prussia's convenience at 
Jena? Or Austria's at Wagram? Did Wellington ask Napoleon 
to choose the ground at Waterloo? And I must say, Timothy, 
that your country has surpassed itself in tactlessness in its 
mismanagement of Italy. All that good will (perhaps the only 
real goodwill between two countries) thrown away, just 
because you couldn't bear to see Italy becoming a power in the 
Mediterranean. And talking of broken promises, as if you 
yourselves had not broken the Treaty of London, which brought 
Italy into the last war. And preaching to them about the 
wickedness of invading Abyssinia, as if you had not yourselves 
done the same thing scores of times. Do you know you now 
control nearly ^,000,000 square miles of Africa, more than a 
third of the area of the whole continent; and Abyssinia, which 
you once invaded yourselves but I suppose did not think worth 
annexing, is only about a fifteenth of that? 

"Did no one remember the Boer War, did no one think of 
the Transvaal, of the many wars against the Ashanti tribesmen, 
of the ultimatum to Cetewayo? — and yet one's English friends 
blandly assumed that not only was it in their interest, it was 
their duty, to stop what they called Italian aggression. If 
Henry VIII had appointed himself a judge in the Divorce Court, 
it would have been reasonable, it would have been positively 
edifying, compared with the spectacle of the English Satan 
rebuking the Italian sin. I have no territorial ambitions, 
remarked the thief, his pockets so bulging with loot that he 
could hardly stagger — loot which he calls the White Man's 
Burden. We have reformed. We do not intend to give back any 
of the swag, of course ; but we mean to see that no other nation 
shall offend. So hands off Abyssinia! What you can't see, 
among much else, is that you give justice a bad name by taking 
up its cause, it suffers under your patronage, just as it did when 
Jeffreys held the Bloody Assize. Well, well, if you win the war 
(which seems very unlikely at this moment) we shall see the 
Walrus and the Carpenter, draped in Union Jacks, gobbling 
up the Italian oysters on the shores of the Red Sea and the 
Mediterranean, tears pouring down their cheeks. 



THE BOAT 183 

''Don't let yourself be stampeded into any kind of war effort, 
will you? This war^fever is a nasty thing, and has made many 
of my friends utterly impossible: in these past months I've 
written and received more rude letters than I should have 
thought possible — and the pleasure I get in writing finis to a 
friendship! I believe you are the only friend I have left, but 
you won't be, if I hear of you giving way to the universal 
madness. If I thought that would happen, I should throw up my 
job and come to Upton by the next train: failing such a catas- 
trophe I must view your blessed inactivity from this respectful 
distance." 

Magda also wrote. 
* 'Dearest Timothy, 

"This must be a sad day for you, and I hasten to send my 
sympathy. I know Italy was like a second country to you, you 
had lived there so long and were so fond of it. I never cared for 
Italy, even before the Fascist regime — I hated to think of people 
being happy in such squalor and the dreadful ignorance of the 
peasantry always appalled me. You will find it wherever the 
Roman Catholic Church hoodwinks the people with tales of 
rewards and penalties in another world. And I disliked their 
obsequiousness and their tooth-paste smiles and persistent 
chattering and vibrato voices and petty dishonesty. Of course 
I don't mind dishonesty as such — honesty is what makes the 
Swiss so dull, that and their looks. Life without crime would 
be even drearier than it is. Think of Oslo, where you can drop a 
five pound note in the street and find it again next year, or the 
island of St. Kilda, where crime is unknov/n. What do the in- 
habitants find to do, I ask you? I like dishonesty in the 
Spaniards, it has so much panache, and the big French frauds 
always make amusing reading; and Russian dishonesty is too 
sweet — it's so naive and childlike, you can see them coming a 
mile off, and of course now it's organised it's becoming a 
valuable asset to the Party. But Italian dishonesty before Fas- 
cism — God, how old it makes me feel — was so hopelessly small 
town — it just meant stealing your luggage, or a diamond pin in a 
hotel bedroom — just for gain — no fantasy or political sense 
behind it. 

"What they've done now isn't very pretty, is it? It isn't 



184 THE BOAT 

that I mind treachery but I do care so intensely about France. 
I won't ask if you defend them, for I don't want to quarrel with 
you, dear Timothy — I prefer to quarrel with people who call 
you a reactionary, for I know that au fond you think as I do, 
and must be feeling as sick as I did when Russia made the pact 
with Germany. But that was to throw dust in the eyes of the 
Capitalist countries, and how well it succeeded ! 

*'I don't feel half as deeply as I should about these things. 
Some of the comrades here just live for hatred of everything 
Fascist. It's like a flame that burns up all that one used to mean 
by life — personal relations, art, food, sex — though they have to 
make time for that, or where should, we get new Communists? 
And they are never bored, never. I haven't attained to that yet. 
I still can't bring myself to hate everyone on the odier side of 
the barricade, otherwise I wouldn't be writing to vou, my 
beloved Timothy: believe me, I do feel for you, even if I ought 
not to. And you have the right attitude to the war, although 
for the wrong reasons, and are helping to sabotage it in your 
quiet way. As I told you, certain quarters I'm in touch with are 
quite interested in your little trouble about the boat. You have 
allies you know nothing about! But I expect you've come to 
terms with the local Fascistry and are taking them for rides up 
and down the river, flying the Swastika." 

Timothy mused. On the banks of the Brenta the corn would 
soon be golden and ripe for cutting. But there wasn't much 
corn by the river, he reflected. There, everything was green; 
the dark green of the vines and the acacias, the silver green of 
the willows and the poplars ; the yellow'Streaked green of the 
maize. How flat the landscape was, and yet how shut in and 
secret, with its arbours and trellises of vines, a honeycomb of 
intercommunicating cells, with feathery summits, and here and 
there a pollard tree shorn and tufted like a poodle, lifted above 
them. In these green compartments mysterious shadows lurked, 
and the dust-pink cottages encrusted with ancient stucco — like 
lichen, like barnacled sea-shells on the sea-shore — were up to 
their eaves in the green tide. Barefooted children, and keen- 
eyed dogs with pointed muzzles loitered round the doors, and 
the ground was moist and sticky from the wash-tubs. Now came 



THE BOAT 185 

the father of the family with his stiff gait, his face stern from 
combating the wiles of men and the malice of the climate : not 
angry yet, but quite ready to be; and his wife as hardbitten as 
himself but watchful for his moods. They meet and exchange a 
monosyllable or two, unsmiling, before he lumbers into the 
house. 

The whole scene is stripped for action; reduced to the essen- 
tial requirements of wringing a bare living from the soil, there is 
no adventitious prettiness, no loving tidiness in the ground 
about the house, where an English farm-labourer's 
cottage is always tidy; the vineyards and maize clumps are 
tended more carefully than the garden. Indeed, there is no 
garden, in our sense of the word, only a few ragged flowers 
growing haphazard, among which the chickens peck and cluck, 
and a flimsy arbour of vines, to make a shelter from the sun. 
Yet this place is full of beauty and peace ; it seems to lie at the 
centre of the heart's experience, to be as fruit-laden as a 
Georgic, as poetic as an eclogue: civilisation at its simplest and 
most enduring. 

Timothy's mind travelled on down the rough white weedy 
track where the tramlines ran, to the station, also vine-girt, 
with its high, stencilled rooms, into which, even in memory, 
he was thankful to withdraw from the noonday glare. Other 
passengers had already arrived, dressed in their Sunday black, 
regardless of the heat, for this was a festa, and they were all 
bound for Venice. Several of them saluted Timothy, for they 
knew him well, the signore inglese of the villa Lucertola; 
they hailed him with delight, they told him how well he was 
looking, they were extravagantly pleased to see him. Relations 
of the friends came shyly forward and were introduced; the 
exchange of compliments grew almost fevered ; the air hummed 
with protestations of good will. Not all the friends, not all the 
relations, were in happy circumstances: some were ill, some 
were suffering cruel financial hardships; some had lost their 
nearest and dearest. There were sighs, headshakings, even tears, 
and cries of 'poveretto!' But the smiles returned as the tram 
came in, clanking, grinding and squeaking; two or three got out, 
everyone got in ; there was no room for them, the tram was full 
already, but they piled in somehow, and those who couldn't, 



186 THE BOAT 

clung like flies to whatever foot-and hand-hold the tram 
afforded. Jolting and squeaking it moved off, taking the points 
so recklessly that the passengers were thrown against each other. 
A young man offered his seat to Timothy and would take no 
refusal. 

The hilarity increased with the bumping and swaying; the 
sun-drenched greenery rushed by, and now they were running 
along the river bank, beside the long sleepy barges, with their 
staring bulbous eyes. On, on, until the vegetation ended and the 
lagoon appeared, deep blue except for little crests of foam, 
whipped up by the sirocco; and the air danced with freshness. 
A moment more and they were rattling into Fusina, with the 
Venice that Shelley and Byron must have seen, lying ahead, an 
argosy of ivory and coral, anchored to the floor of the lagoon. 
The obese little steamer was turning round, churning up the 
water; from its tall funnel, black evil-smelling smoke was 
whirled towards them on the fragrant wind. Often as Timothy 
had done the journey the tingle of excitement that this moment 
brought was always new. The tram pulled up, on the edge of 
the sea; the passengers jumped off, dropped off, walked off, 
were helped off; they scurried past the ticket collector and down 
the corridor that led to the boat. Timothy lingered, partly to 
savour the moment, partly to find his ticket; he was just giving 
it up when he felt a touch on his arm. Two men in black shirts 
were barring his way; the ticket collector had fallen back a 
pace, his hands hanging at his sides. 

*'We are here to arrest you," said the taller of the two men. 
**You must come with us." *'But why?" asked Timothy. 
**War has been declared," said his captor, ''and you are now an 
enemy. Do not resist." They hustled him into a closed car that 
was standing near, and drove rapidly away in the direction of 
Padua. 

The dream, and the feeling of distress it left, did not disperse 
easily; here in England, in the bright summer morning, the 
indescribable defilement of captivity hung about him and he 
could almost smell the hostile presences in the room. But 
gradually his mind persuaded his more instinctive and mis- 
trustful faculties that he was free; free to get up when he 



THE BOAT 187 

wanted, free to drink his cooling tea, free to read the letter that 
lay still unopened on the blanket. The address made him start. 
It was the PoUce Station, Swirrelsford ; but the rest of the 
missive was reassuring. The Superintendent of Police thanked 
Timothy for his generous donation to the expenses of the 
concert, and in the name of the police and of the L.D.V. 
expressed the hope that he would be able to honour the 
occasion with his presence. 



188 THE BOAT 



CHAPTER XIII 

The room filled up slowly. Anxious to make a better impression 
at this, his second public appearance in Upton, than he had 
done at the Rector's cocktail party, Timothy arrived betimes, 
and was escorted to what could only be called the High Table. 
Arranged for dramatic performances, the village hall had a stage 
at one end, and on this a table had been placed. Below the 
salt two long tables on trestles ran down the body of the hall ; 
Timothy could imagine himself back at Oxford. His place at the 
end of the table which he was to share with another guest was a 
point of vantage ; he looked down his own table, and by turning 
his head could see what was happening at the others. He 
wondered who his neighbours were going to be. 

The room was decorated with the flags of the Allied Nations ; 
the Stars and Stripes were there; large coloured portraits of 
the King and Queen hung at the back of the stage, and along the 
walls were pictures of generals and maps of the war, interspersed 
with peace-time prints of a much earlier date: ''Bubbles," 
and others in which figured rollicking and bibulous monks, 
large and kindly dogs, cottages under snow or with roses round 
the door, lovers delightedly meeting or sadly saying farewell. 
Accordion-pleated paper swags of red, white and blue swung 
from one wall to the other and from the ceiling hung frilly 
balls and bells of the same colours ; the whole effect was so gay 
and pretty that Timothy began to feel his spirits rise. Singly or 
in small knots the guests drifted in, peered along the tables 
and took their places with much whispering and laughing. 
Wimbush and Nelson were sitting together ; Timothy waved to 
them and received a discreet salutation in reply. At his table 
the guests were slower in making their appearance; perhaps, 
thought Timothy, they expected to be bored and meant to 
make their purgatory as brief as possible. Presently the Rector 
arrived, resplendent in purple and accompanied by a clerical 
friend; they were given places of honour near the centre. 
Mr. Purbright having sat down got up again and came 



THE BOAT 189 

round to Timothy. ''Glad to see you here," he said. ''Come 
to the Rectory afterwards if you feel Uke it, there'll be several 
of us there." Timothy got up to speak to him, and when he sat 
down again he found that his left-hand neighbour had arrived, 
a genial-looking red'faced man of fifty, of great breadth and 
girth. 

"Daykin, my name is," he announced, "Sergeant-Inspector 
Day kin to the members of the Force." 

"My name is Casson," said Timothy. 

"You needn't tell me that," remarked the Inspector with a 
smile. 

"What, do you know me?" said Timothy. 

"It's our business to know everyone," said the Inspector, 
"but it isn't always we have the pleasure of talking to gentlemen 
we know quite well by sight and reputation." 

"I hope you know nothing against mine," said Timothy with 
a nervous laugh. 

"Nothing at all, Mr. Casson, on the contrary. People some- 
times feel funny when they meet a policeman, I know, but he's 
really there to help them. Ah, here's the Captain." 

A tall, spare man with iron-grey hair was sitting down at 
Timothy's other side. He was just going to say something, when, 
with a loud scraping of feet, the whole party rose, and silence 
falling on them the Rector said grace. 

"Just in time," said Timothy's new neighbour when they 
were all seated. "I thought I was going to be late on parade. 
Let's see," he said looking round, "Daykin' s an old friend, 
good evening. Inspector." He glanced interrogatively at 
Timothy, "I suppose I ought to tell you my name, such as it is. 
Sturrock." 

"Cas — " began Timothy, but before he had got his name out 
Captain Sturrock exclaimed, "Of course! Didn't we meet once 
at the Rectory?" 

"Well," said Timothy, "we didn't exactly meet." 
"I remember! You were engaged with a fair lady, a dazzling 
blonde. We all envied you and wondered who she was." 
"Miss Vera Cross," said Timothy a little stiffly. 
"That's the name! Quite pretty, wasn't she? But we didn't 
get a look in — you had the whole field to yourself. She didn't 



190 THE BOAT 

pay any attention to us old fogeys." 

His smile robbed the words of any offence, and Timothy, 
getting rather red, remarked casually, ''Oh, I think she was one 
of those people who are here today and gone tomorrow." 

"I haven't set eyes on her since," said Captain Sturrock. 
''But then we don't see much of the floating population — all 
the young matrons in trousers." He paused reflectively. "You 
staying here some time, I hope?" 

Timothy gave a brief outline of his plans, or lack of plans. 

Someone was standing behind them with a bottle. 

"Thanks, I will have some sherry," Captain Sturrock said. 
"Those poor chaps down below aren't getting any, but no 
matter, they'll soon be well away on beer. I'm glad to have this 
opportunity of talking to you," he added, altering his tone, 
"because, well, we're all neighbours and this is a jolly little 
place, isn't it?" 

Timothy said he liked Upton very much. 

"Yes, we're a very happy family," said Captain Sturrock, 
his glance embracing with approval the other members of the 
High Table, of whom Timothy had counted fourteen, radiating 
outwards from the distinguished looking red-tabbed soldier in 
the middle, "and of course we want to help each other and not 
get in each other's way. I should very much like to have a talk 
with you, Casson, not about anything in particular, but a 
general pow'wow." 

Timothy said that nothing would please him better. 

Captain Sturrock thought for a moment. "I'll get the missus 
to write you, that would be best, wouldn't it? As you're a single 
man she can't call on you, it wouldn't be proper. I don't under- 
stand these mysteries myself. Yes, please," he said over his 
shoulder, "I will have some claret, aren't they doing us well?" 

Sipping his wine and watching through the alcoholic fumes 
the sunburnt faces at the table below him growing flushed 
behind their tankards, Timothy began to feel much mellower. 

"There's one thing I can say now," said Captain Sturrock, 
"because we've all talked about it and we're all agreed, I mean it 
seems a damned pity you shouldn't be able to use the river." 

Timothy had heard something like this before, but all the 
same, he pricked up his ears. 



THE BOAT 191 

''Of course it needs a certain amount of adjustment," Captain 
Sturrock went on, "but it shouldn't be beyond the wit of man 
to arrange." 

''A lot depends on Mrs. Lampard, doesn't it?" said Timothy 
cautiously. 

Captain Sturrock raised his eyebrows. ''On her? I don't 
see what it's got to do with the old girl as long as she gets her 
rent paid. You would be willing to come in on that, wouldn't 
you?" 

"Of course," said Timothy. So the Rector had been wrong in 
thinking that money would not talk. 

"Well, that would be one item on the agenda. By the way," 
Captain Sturrock lowered his voice, "are we leaving the In- 
spector in the cold?" 

Inspector Daykin was staring, with the feigned interest of 
the un-talked to, at the paper streamers and pendent balls and 
bells. Timothy nodded to Captain Sturrock, and said to the 
Inspector, "Pretty, aren't they?" 

"They are quite tasteful," replied the Inspector, "but what 
I'm thinking is, if this room gets much hotter we shall see all that 
paper stuff floating up to the roof." 

Timothy was suddenly aware of the heat, and looking closer 
noticed a swaying movement among the decorations as if they 
were captive balloons straining at the guide-ropes. The heavily 
blacked'Out windows and the unshaded electric light bulbs 
added to the impression of heat. 

"I'll open the door a chink," said the Inspector. "It won't 
show because of the curtain across the porch." 

He rose with surprising agility for so big a man and brought 
back with him a puff of air which soon settled down into a hard- 
working draught. Draining his tankard and looking round in a 
marked manner for replenishment, which immediately came, 
he said, "Well, what do you think of Upton, Mr. Casson?" 

"I think it's charming," said Timothy flatly. 

"You would say that this was a quiet little place, wouldn't 
you?" 

Timothy said he would. 

"You'd say that the people just fed the chickens and milked 
the cows and ploughed the fields and scattered, and then had a 



192 THE BOAT 

glass or two at the local and then went home to bed?" 

Timothy said he supposed that their lives followed some such 
course. 

''And you'd think that the police have nothing to do but sit 
on their beam ends and count the hymn-books in church?" 

''Well—" began Timothy. 

"You'd be wrong," said the Inspector. "You'd be absolutely 
wrong." 

There was tremendous, crushing finality in his tone, and his 
face closed like a trap. Timothy looked at him inquiringly. 
Jerking his head back he said, impassively, "There's people in 
this village who look as mild and meek as you, Mr. Casson, who 
would give the London police a run for their money. They 
would indeed." 

"Really?" 

"Yes, and there's some in this hall — " his prominent eye-balls 
swept the festive tables — "who are lucky to be in this hall, and 
not somewhere else." 

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Timothy, in spite of himself 
agreeably thrilled. "You don't say so." 

"And some who might be sitting next to their own fathers 
without knowing it." 

Timothy couldn't help looking as if he had hoped for some- 
thing more sensational. 

The Inspector fixed him with a gimlet eye. 

"And one who's his own father's grandson, in a manner of 
speaking." 

Timothy registered amazement. 

"Think it out, Mr. Casson," said the Inspector, leaning back. 
"Think it out." 

Timothy couldn't, and begged to be enlightened. 

The Inspector told the story with many circumlocutions 
and short-cuts. It was a tale of ignorance and passion and of 
pathos which gained rather than lost by the Inspector's terre-a- 
terre recital. His attitude was severely professional ; the feelings 
of the parties seemed to mean nothing to him except in so far 
as they furnished clues, and he disapproved of their carelessness 
much more than of their wrong-doing. In this respect the 
woman's conduct had been especially culpable. "She asked for 



THE BOAT 193 

it," he said. ''If she hadn't cried when they mentioned his name 
to her, she wouldn't ever have been found out." 

Timothy was much affected by the story, and could only say, 
''I suppose that sort of thing only happens among the very 
poor." 

''Well, with the poor you can watch 'em," the Inspector said. 
"Some of 'em don't rightly know it's wrong, so they don't 
take the same care that you or I would. When they slip up it's 
generally from the love-motive. Now with these foreign ele- 
ments that have just come to the villages you don't know where 
you are." 

He drained his tankard and paused a moment while it was 
being refilled. 

"It's bicycles they're after," he said, "and illicit petrol, and 
all sorts of tricks they've picked up in the towns. Hot-beds of 
crime, some of those big cities are. And of course we get all 
sorts here. We can't keep 'em out. The gentry don't like 'em, 
nor do we. Why, some of those girls is positively provocative. 
You don't go much to the Fishermen's Arms, Mr. Casson?" 

Timothy said he didn't. 

"It was a good house once," the Inspector said. "I don't live 
here, Swirrelsford's my home, but if I dropped in of an evening 
I'd find, well, perhaps half a dozen of the gentlemen who are 
sitting at this table with us. Now you won't find one. Just pull- 
overs which are hardly decent and trousers which in my opinion 
are worse than bare legs. It's putting ideas into people's heads, 
isn't it. Captain?" 

He leaned across Timothy towards Captain Sturrock. 

"What is. Inspector?" 

"The way some of these foreigners act at the local. They 
might be ladies who earn their daily bread by night. And talk 
about careless talk!" 

"We're old-fashioned. Inspector," said Captain Sturrock. 
"But what can we do? We can't run them out of the village." 

"Treat 'em as the French people do the Jerries, by all 
accounts," said the Inspector. "Look at 'em as if they weren't 
there." 

"Some of them are rather pretty," said Captain Sturrock 
slyly. 



194 THE BOAT 

''That sort of prettiness comes off with a Uttle soap and 
water." 

''What do you think, Casson? But perhaps it isn't a fair 
question." 

"It's a blonde question," said Timothy. 

The Inspector turned away, not seeing the joke. Captain 
Sturrock smiled and said, "Now that I've got your ear" — he 
sneezed violently, "Good God, that draught! Must I catch my 
death of cold to prevent Daykin having a stroke ? What I was 
going to say was, I do hope you'll come round, old boy, and 
have a chat and tell us what you think of the proposal." 

"I should love to." 

"That's agreed then. You'll find us all plain people — no 
blondes, I'm afraid." 

Timothy said he did not prefer blondes. 

Captain Sturrock laughed. "And not highbrows either. 
You'll have to make allowances for us. But my Missus is keen 
about Italy, though she doesn't like Musso." 

"Nor do I." 

"We've got a picture of the Grand Canal and another of 
St. Marks, so you'll feel quite at home." 

"I'm sure I shall." 

A chair scraped, and a hush fell on the tables. 

"Gentlemen, the King!" 

Looking back on the evening, a painful exercise of memory, 
Timothy wondered where he went wrong, at what point his 
sense of his own welfare, his instinct for co-operating with his 
best interests — the instinct that prevents one from biting one's 
cheek or from being run down by a passing motor car — 
abandoned and betrayed him. For it would have been so easy, 
it seemed afterwards, not to get into the state of mind in which 
he made the mistake, to preserve the coolness and judgment 
which would have made the lapse impossible. And, what was 
so mortifying to reflect, if he had acted as his nature prompted, 
held aloof, keeping himself mentally and emotionally free from 
the spirit of the evening, not let himself be caught up by the 
afflatus of good fellowship, all would have gone well. And if he 
had not drunk so much, that might have helped. But every- 



THE BOAT 195 

thing had conspired against him — his will, his inclination, and 
above all his mood of the moment. 

Not only was he determined that the villagers, above and 
below the salt, should think of him as one of themselves, but 
he was persuaded, thanks to his success with Captain Sturrock, 
that they already did. Not only was the boat within his grasp — 
the sculls already in his hands and his feet in the stretcher — but 
he had already begun to enjoy in anticipation the whole com- 
plex of emotions that went with that event, the elation of 
victory and the swearing of eternal love and friendship with the 
vanquished. Into his mind floated pictures of picnics in some 
secluded creek with Captain and Mrs. Sturrock, with Mr. and 
Mrs. Purbright, with Tyro, with Magda, with Esther Morwen, 
bright with conversation and vivacity and the exchange o{ 
compliments; drowsy afternoons alone, half dreaming half 
awake, exposed body and mind to the healing influences of this 
almost unparalleled summer, whose sunshine never burnt or 
stifled, in whose bland zephyrs there was never a treacherous 
under-breath of chill. 

True, Captain Sturrock had complained of the draught and 
from time to time he sneezed violently and indignantly, but had 
too much public spirit to get up and shut the door; while 
Timothy, too well warmed in spirit to notice, was happy 
watching the tobacco smoke, whirled hither and thither in 
blue-grey eddies as the current caught it. So thick was the 
smoke as practically to veil the naked hanging lights and to 
make indistinct the faces and figures of the performers as, one 
after another, they left their places on the benches and stood by 
the piano at the far end of the hall. One or two of the artists 
were professionals or near professionals who had come from 
London or the Midlands bringing the latest songs. Uptonians 
by birth, they had names known far beyond the village, and 
their presence lent the occasion a lustre, a metropolitan air, to 
which Timothy was not insensible. With their songs and 
recitations, duologues and tap-dancing, they bore the brunt o{ 
the attack; but soon there was a call for local talent. Favourite 
performers were summoned by name, and greeted witli 
affectionate or ironical and encouraging cheers; fumbling and 
stumbling they extricated themselves from the benches, and 



196 THE BOAT 

Stood, sheepish and awkward, with large red hands and redder 
faces, under the battery of eyes and ears. 

After the sophisticated patter of the professionals, crammed 
with topical allusions, and their croonings about love, which 
were generally meaningless or bitter, the Victorian ballads 
favoured by most of the Uptonians had a strangely wistful ring. 
They were songs Timothy's mother had sung to him, and he 
experienced a thrill of emotion to hear them sung again, in 
country accents by rough male voices who made up by fervour 
what they lacked in skill. The accompanist, an old hand at his 
job, waited for them or hurried after them or changed the key 
of the song when they were getting into difficulties. 

The Minstrel Boy went to the war again, and Johnny came 
marching home ; the last rose of summer shed its petals on the 
grass ; the luckless maid lingered on the Banks of Allan Water. 
Many of the singers began shakily, but they waxed bolder as 
they, went on, and if they were nervous of the audience they 
were never afraid of the sentiment of the song; throwing 
themselves into it as if it was something they had felt for a long 
time and could now at last express. All this moved Timothy 
and loosened his emotional control, so that he found himself 
with smarting eyelids and a lump in his throat. 

Then the professionals came back and the concert began to 
change its character. Almost imperceptibly the jokes became 
broader and the tone of the entertainment moved from the 
drawing-room to the smoking-room. Had the line of demarca- 
tion been more marked, had a bell rung or a whistle sounded, 
Timothy might have taken warning, and so might the Rector 
who, after smiling benignly at the first few daring jokes, began 
to look uneasy as their impropriety became more and more 
difficult to ignore. He shifted in his chair and looked to right and 
left, obviously longing to make a bolt. But it was too late; to 
leave the concert now would be to register disapproval, and this 
the Rector was determined not to do. His companion in the 
cloth, a pale man with a dog-collar much too big for him, looked 
less uncomfortable, for after all the moral tone of Upton was 
no concern of his. 

Timothy hoped that the outbreak of indecency would die 
down as suddenly as it started, but no; it had captured the 



THE BOAT 197 

imagination of the house, and Uke the rumbling of a distant 
storm came nearer and nearer, until, like a clap of thunder, 
came a joke which combined suggestiveness with profanity. 
The laugh that followed shook the room; the Rector's face 
turned dark red, and his hand made a sudden sharp gesture of 
anger and impatience. Timothy saw this with dismay; un- 
fortunately several of the company saw it, too, and their faces 
lit up with grins. ''He didn't like that one," said the Inspector 
in a whisper that seemed to carry across the room; 'TU make 
him sit up when my turn comes." 

He did not have long to wait. By now the professionals had 
again stood down, and the amateurs were once more called 
upon. Some merely told a risque story, which was often 
drowned in roars of laughter, for laughter now possessed the 
hall; others sang soldiers' marching songs very slow in coming 
to the point, of which they could only remember the spicier 
fragments. Each got its laugh, and after each scores of eyes were 
turned towards the Rector, to see how he had taken it. Timothy 
stole a glance at him. His face was mottled, his eyes were £xed 
upon the table, and his friend and guest now shared his em- 
harassment as painfully as did Timothy. The wild idea came to 
Timothy that he, too, might be called upon to sing a bawdy 
song, on pain of being denounced, and perhaps thrown out as a 
kill-joy and a prig. Even the Rector might have to give his 
quota. . . . The fantasy was working on him like an onset of 
hysteria, when suddenly he heard a scraping at his side and the 
Inspector staggered to his feet, and announced in a loud, thick 
voice: 'Tve only come down for the day." A burst of laughter 
and a round of applause greeted him, and Timothy's corner 
became the target of all eyes : it was almost as if he were singing 
himself. 

Nevertheless, for a moment he relaxed, for he \'aguely 
remembered the song, and as far as his memory went there was 
no harm in it. But soon he realised that the Inspector knew 
another, more colourful version, which began almost at the 
point where its more decorous original left off; verse followed 
verse in w^hich ever more preposterous and improper proposals 
were put before the man who had only come down for the day. 
They were not very funny but tliey were very scandalous, and 



198 THE BOAT 

Timothy's much tried self-control gave way before them. 
When the crowning salvo of laughter and clapping came, it 
found him in a paroxysm of hysterical fou-rire, which went on, 
with a noise like that of mingled whooping-cough and sobs, 
long after the acclamations had died down. 

The next performer, already on his feet, waited politely for 
Timothy to recover from his mirth. But the Rector did not 
wait. Bestowing on Timothy a look of hatred which Timothy, 
his forehead bowed almost to the table, happened just to catch, 
he laid his hand on his friend's arm and shepherded him out of 
the room. 

There was a dead silence, and the singer who was standing 
up looked about him uncertainly for guidance, and getting none, 
sat down again. Little gusts of conversation started up here and 
there; the voices were subdued as if the speakers did not wish 
to be heard; but one of them called out to the discouraged 
singer to begin his song. It was only mildly indelicate, or 
seemed so, now that the Rector had gone; it was sung half' 
heartedly and the applause that greeted it was half-hearted, too. 
Much shuffling and stirring followed, there were questioning 
looks and nudges and sotto voce exhortations of ''Come on, 
now!" but nobody volunteered to sing. 

The red-tabbed general stepped into the breach with a short 
speech in which he said how enjoyable and successful the 
evening had been; he thanked the organisers for an excellent 
dinner and the performers for their part in the entertainment; 
he congratulated the L.D.V. and the police on the valuable 
work they were doing, and exhorted them not to relax their 
efforts as sterner times lay ahead. His voice and manner 
and the authority with which he spoke did something to restore 
the morale of the assembly, faces cleared, the rout became a 
retreat, and so with 'Auld Lang Syne' and 'God Save the King' 
the party came to an end. 

Timothy, who felt as if he would never dare or even know 
how to laugh again, muttered to Captain Sturrock, 'Tm afraid 
I made an awful fool of myself." 

"Oh no, you didn't, old boy, it might have happened to any 
of us. You coming along to the Rectory?" 

''I think I'd better not," Timothy said. 



THE BOAT 199 

*'A11 right then, be seeing you in a day or two." 

It seemed Uke four in the morning, but actually it was only 
ten o'clock when Timothy regained his room. He sat down at 
once and wrote a letter of abject apology to Mr. Purbright. 
The letter proved to be the most difficult he had ever written. 
The more he explained, the more there seemed to be to explain. 
He had never been intimate with Mr. Purbright ; their friendship 
had been founded not on mutual sympathy but on respect and 
good will, and it was precisely these that Timothy had violated. 
The best he could do was to make himself out an hysterical 
nincompoop with a strain of perversity which always made him 
laugh in the wrong place. 

In the morning he hardly dared to face Wimbush, but a 
morbid instinct to hear the worst got the better of him. His 
reception, however, was agreeably different from what he 
had expected. 

''Well, sir, and how did you enjoy our little entertainment 
last night?" 

Timothy took a deep breath. 

"I enjoyed it very much." 

A twinkle came into the gardener's eye. 

**We saw you did, sir." 

"Yes, I'm afraid I made rather an ass of myself." 

Wimbush's surprise seemed quite genuine. 

"Indeed you didn't, sir. The chaps were only too pleased you 
enjoyed their bit of fun. They think all the better of you for it. 
Why, it was the joke of the evening when you couldn't stop 
laughing. The Rector now, he hasn't done himself any good by 
going out with his nose in the air." 

Ashamed of the tide of relief that was rolling over him like 
water on a desert, Timothy said, tolerantly: 

"I expect it was a little difficult for him." 

"Why, sir, he ought to be able to take a joke, even if it 
is a bit broad. 'Twasn't as if he'd been in church. The chaps 
didn't like it, sir. There's quite a few say they won't go to 
church in future, as a kind of protest, like." 

"Oh that would be a pity," said Timothy, aghast at the idea oi 
having decimated Mr. Purbright's congregation. "But they ne\ er 



200 THE BOAT 

went very much, did they?" 

''That was quite different, sir, if you'll excuse me. They 
wouldn't go now if they could. The fact is, they feel they've 
been insulted, sir. When a gentleman like you can take a joke, 
why shouldn't a clergyman like Mr. Purbright?" 

On the whole the interview had been reassuring, and Nelson 
felt much the same about the 'incident' as Wimbush had. The 
Rector had sunk in the community's esteem, while Timothy 
had risen. 

All the same, he awaited Mr. Purbright's answer with miS' 
givings, nor did they prove unfounded. It was a formal note of 
acknowledgment, bringing a rather frosty breath of Christian 
charity, but no suggestion that bygones should be bygones, or 
that a resumption of Timothy's visits to the Rectory would be 
welcome. There was a postscript, however. "I cannot help 
feeling glad," the Rector added, ''that Volumnia was away when 
this discouraging and regrettable little episode occurred. I was 
not myself when I reached home, and had to ask the friends who 
came on later if they would excuse me. My wife's Christianity 
is of a more elastic type than (I am afraid) mine is, she sees 
evidences of spiritual-mindedness where I cannot ; but she will 
be inexpressibly grieved to hear — as hear she must, for we have 
no secrets from each other — that my twenty^five years' ministry 
in this parish has borne so little, and such bitter fruit." 

Mrs. Purbright! In his multitudinous concern for the con- 
sequences of the incident, Timothy had almost forgotten her. 
She was a woman of strong feeling, he knew. Would he lose 
her friendship, with her husband's? He did not like to ring up 
the Rectory, but Wimbush discovered, by methods of his own, 
that Mrs. Purbright was still away and it was not known when 
she would be back. 



THE BOAT 201 



CHAPTER XIV 

WiMBUSH was right: Timothy's breakdown at the dinner did 
seem in some way to have endeared him to the inhabitants of 
Upton, and as he walked along its street, hands of men he did 
not even know by sight were raised in salute. Almost any form 
of popularity was sweet to him, and as he had been starved of it 
so long, he found himself welcoming these rather equivocal 
signs of favour. Moreover, any day now he would be receiving 
a summons to The Old Stables, as Captain Sturrock's house was 
called. Wimbush was right, too, that the Rector had lost ground 
by his discourteous and priggish gesture. One or two of the 
passers-by who saluted Timothy stopped and made sly little 
digs at Mr. Purbright, and the attendance at church (for 
Timothy still went to church) seemed to have fallen off. 
Wimbush made a joke about this: ''I heard that the whole 
village was there, both of 'em," and Timothy couldn't help 
being amused and half pleased that a party seemed to be forming 
against the Rector. 

Returning one day from his afternoon walk, which now had 
no object except air and exercise, he found a letter from Esther 
Morwen, from whom he hadn't heard for several weeks. She 
apologised for her silence: *'It's so boring," she wrote, **to say 
I lost your address again, but I did. I meant to write the day 
Italy came into the war — I knew how you would mind it, that 
dear country which has been a home to generations of English- 
men. No country has understood them so well as we have ; we 
helped them to their freedom at the time of the Risorgi- 
mento, didn't we? and Browning said that Italy would be found 
graved on his heart. They have been rather ungrateful, haven't 
they? when we have done so much for them, and it would be 
easy to feel they have betrayed us, but somehow I can't; it is 
just a momentary blindness, not seeing eye to eye with us, and 
as soon as we win, and get rid of Mussolini and those horrible 
Fascists, who are so anti-English, and put in the kind of states- 
men who understand our point of view, all the old good feeling 



202 



THE BOAT 



will come back. Victory will be like the sum of our good 
intentions made manifest; it won't be for the imposing of our 
will — that would be tyrannical and un-English; but the whole- 
sale recognition, by them, of the sacrifices we have made really 
for them, to bring them back to the kind of standards we have 
always stood for. 

''You wrote so sympathetically and understandingly about 
Denis ; poor boy, he was only twenty and had a brilliant career 
before him, he was in some ways the most gifted of them all. 
Daphne was inconsolable at first ; but she begins to realize that 
all he meant to her, and us, and to the world, isn't lost — I 
couldn't believe a thing so horrible even if it were true — it 
lives on among the good things that grow out of the battlefield 
as naturally as fruit and crops and flowers do. 

"I thought your letter was a little wistful. Village life is a 
habit you can't easily acquire if you're not born to it — you may 
so easily magnify differences and quarrels which are really only 
ripples on the surface — signs that the sap is rising. It's all so 
sound, really, the instinct that makes English people of that 
kind apparently so critical and hard on each other; it means 
they are keeping each other up to the mark, it's the opposite of 
decadence, and some of it is so enjoyable! I wouldn't miss the 
little upsets we sometimes have here for the world. In the end 
they bring out everyone's essential niceness, which is somehow 
inseparable from the instinct to make a scene. I don't always 
try to pour oil; it makes them think you superior, and even 
inhuman, if you never take their squabbles seriously or take 
sides. But I'm afraid I'm a born partisan; I never could agree 
that one becomes less oneself by fighting for something that 
one loves — to me, that is the most the self can aspire to, the 
height of self-hood, I might say. 

"It's a pity you laughed — but you'll find the Rector will be 
the first to forgive you, they have so much experience of every 
type of human nature, and so much worse things to fight against 
than a laugh ! And even if the villagers think it was a bit off- 
colour, they'll just put it down to your foreign ways ! 

"I'm so glad you think you may get leave to use your boat, 
though I never quite understood why it means so much to you, 
especially in these times when everyone, more or less, has his 



THE BOAT 203 

shoulder to the wheel. Fishing, of course, is a definite contribu- 
tion to the War Effort; it helps the food supply, and besides is 
something that people like ourselves have always done; 
whereas a boat only leaves behind ripples that die away when 
they reach the bank. But you always have been a law unto 
yourself — it's one of the things 1 love about you — " 

Timothy heard a sound and looked up. Effie was standing at 
the door. 

**Miss Lampard, sir." 

*'Who?" Timothy had heard, but couldn't believe his ears. 

Effie repeated the name. 

*'Ask her to come in," said Timothy. 

She came in slowly, with an air of not noticing what she 
saw. Her eyes were bright and her face was flushed, and she was 
breathing quickly. She looked nervous — frightened almost — 
but resolute. Even so, her presence lit up the room. 

''Do sit down," said Timothy. 

She looked around her vaguely, and then sat down on the 
edge of the worn green armchair. 

*'I mustn't stay," she said, ''but I felt I had to come." 

"Tea will be here in a moment," said Timothy. "You'll stay 
for that?" 

"How kind of you. Well, just a cup. I left my horse in the 
stable yard," she added. "Your gardener kindly tied him up for 
me. I hope it didn't matter?" 

"Of course not. You rode over, then?" 

"I couldn't help it. We're nearly out of petrol. The car would 
have been safer." 

"Safer?" 

"I didn't want to be seen." 

Timothy looked at her inquiringly. 

"Mother doesn't know I've come here," she said with an 
effort. "She . . . she'd be angry if she knew." 

"I'm sorry," said Timothy. 

"But I couldn't not come," she said, as though repeating 
something she had often said to herself, "when you had been so 
kind." 

Timothy assured her that the kindness had been all on her 



204 THE BOAT 

side. 

She disagreed. *^You were so nice about the French. Some 
people are horrid about them. And you wrote such a lovely 
article about our house — at least I thought so." 

"Your mother didn't?" 

Desiree did not speak for a moment, and the light faded from 
her face. 

"No, she didn't like it at all. She thought it was — well, rather 
vulgar. And she didn't like me showing you over the house." 

"Fm sorry," repeated Timothy. 

"I'm not," She spoke with sudden animation, defiantly. 
Then her face fell. "I made you so many promises," she said, 
sadly. 

"Well, you have carried out the most important of them." 

"By coming here? How nice of you. But I'm afraid I shan't be 
able to ask you back." 

"I didn't expect you would," said Timothy. But he had 
expected it. 

"Mother says that since your article heaps of people — 
strangers — have written to ask if they may see the house, and 
some have called and asked to be shown over." 

"I'm sorry," said Timothy again. How could he have foreseen 
that this would happen ? 

"She hates publicity more than anything. It was the first 
time the house had been open to the public, and she says it will 
be the last. She almost refused to let a party of Free French 
soldiers see over it the other day, although she knew one of 
them quite well. He was such a charming boy. They all were, 
but he specially." 

Something in her tone made Timothy say, "Have you seen 
them again?" 

She hesitated. "I wanted to — one or two of them. The one 
that Mother knew, as a matter of fact. His father was a friend 
of hers — he's dead now — and Francois is the Due de Charleroi, 
not that it makes any difference. But she doesn't want me to see 
him again." 

"And that does make a difference?" 

She flushed a litde. "Yes." 

Timothy pondered. How delightful she was ; what possibilities 



THE BOAT 205 

of happiness went with her, what a glow of Ufe. And he owed 
Mrs. Lampard nothing, unless it was a poke in the eye with a 
burnt stick. 

''Couldn't you meet him here?" he said. 

She started; the colour came and went in her face; she 
clenched her hand and looked away from Timothy. 

**How could we arrange it?" 

*T could write and ask him. It would be quite natural to 
offer hospitality to the Free French. People are asked to." 

She frowned and shook her head once or twice, as though 
denying herself something. Timothy got up and offered her a 
cigarette. She looked at the clock and said, "No, I mustn't," 
and then changed her mind. He lit the cigarette for her, and 
she smoked it with quick puffs, like a child. 

*Tt would be risky," she said. ''Mother would be so angry if 
she found out, and you don't know what she's like when she's 
angry." 

*'She's angry with me already, I'm afraid." 

"She does seem to be. But what have you done? That lovely 
article — she said it was like a house-agent's blurb, and people 
would think she wanted to sell the place." 

"She doesn't, does she?" 

Desiree laughed. "Oh no. And then, there's another promise 
I have broken." 

"What, another?" 

"About the boat. She doesn't want you to have it. She's seen 
a lawyer who says the tenants of the fishing could sue her for 
breach of contract if you got in their way." 

"Oh, but she could persuade them. A word from her — " 

"But she won't say it. I've asked her twice: you can't ask her 
anything three times." 

"But if the tenants themselves don't object — " 

"That would be different, perhaps. But she wouldn't like it, 
even then." 

"Miss Lampard," said Timothy, leaning forward and 
speaking in a voice that shook, so wrought upon was he by the 
thought of Mrs. Lampard's intransigence, "if you want to meet 
the Due de Charleroi here, you have only to tell me." 

The trouble and the joy returned to her face, chasing each 



206 THE BOAT 

Other like shadows. ''Oh how kind you are," she said, jumping 
up. **How grateful I am I met you. Whatever happens, I shall 
always be grateful to you." 

"Don't go yet," pleaded Timothy: ''Here's tea." 

Effie's arrival changed the subject of conversation. Gone was 
her habitual languor; her manner was gracious, her movements 
deft and sure. The room lost its bachelor bleakness and became 
intimate and domestic. 

Timothy asked his guest to pour out the tea. 

"What will you say if I spill it?" 

"I'm sure you won't." 

He watched her hands moving among the tea-things . 

"What pretty cups," she said. 

"They've never looked pretty before," said Timothy. "Are 
they French?" 

She coloured charmingly and her face soon lost its look of 
strain. Unwatched, the hands of the clock crept round the dial. 
Suddenly, as though angry at being ignored, the clock struck six. 

"Oh dear," she said, "Now I must go." 

Timothy didn't try to detain her. 

"This is a nice house, isn't it?" she said, as they went to the 
door. "It must be about the same date as ours, the mouldings, 
I mean." Timothy looked up at the cornice which repeated, in 
a whisper, certain grandiloquent utterances of plaster and stucco 
at Welshgate Hall. "And the hall would be so pretty," she said 
as they crossed it, "if it weren't for the black-out. It's just the 
same with us, do you remember? the picture gallery's quite 
spoilt by all the horrible felt stuff on the roof." 

Timothy was charmed by the naturalness with which she 
compared her house to his. 

He held her horse while she mounted, and walked beside her 
down the drive. She talked to the horse in peremptory and to 
him in dulcet tones ; with the buoyancy of youth she seemed 
to have thrown off her fear of a scolding. But when the bend of 
the road brought the poplared green into view she leaned 
towards Timothy and said, "Perhaps I'd better say goodbye to 
you here." 

Timothy was loth to let her go. 

"Tell me if there's anything I can do for you," he said. "If 



THE BOAT 207 

any questions are asked, you must say your horse had a 
puncture." 

''That's a good idea." 

"And you'll let me know about the Free French." 

The baffled, anxious look returned, and she said, "Oh, I 
wish I knew what to do." 

"Nothing venture, nothing have." 

"I know, I know. But mother and I are such great friends. 
I love her and admire her more than anyone else in the world. 
I can't bear to do something she doesn't like." 

"She can't keep you on leading-strings for ever," said 
Timothy. 

"You don't think it's wicked of me to go against her in this 
case?" 

"No, I think you should stand up to her." 

Desiree frowned. 

"She's never been like this before. We've never had the 
smallest disagreement. She isn't like herself — I think she must 
have got something on her mind." 

"Perhaps she's rather possessive — mothers sometimes are. 
I can quite understand her not wanting to lose you." 

"But that would mean she was selfish, and she isn't a bit." 

"Perhaps she doesn't like the idea of your marrying a 
Frenchman." 

"She isn't very nice about the French," Desiree admitted. 
"And she used to like them so much. Oh, if only I could talk 
to her!" 

"Is she difficult to talk to?" 

"Impossible, if it's something she doesn't want to talk 
about." 

"But this is so important." 

"I can see you think she's selfish," said Desiree, troubled. 

"No, but I expect she's forgotten what she felt like at your 
age. 

Desiree looked at him with a gleam of suspicion in her eyes. 
"Why, have you heard anything?" 

"Only that she was very much in love with your father." 

Desiree seemed relieved. 

^Tes, she was. Perhaps I'm like her. But she said such cruel 



208 THE BOAT 

things. She said she'd rather see me dead than married to him." 

''How could she be so cruel?" 

''And that I was throwing myself at his head, though I've 
only seen him twice." 

"Is she often as unkind as that?" 

"Never, oh no, never, and I don't want you to get a wrong 
impression of her." 

"I think you're miarvellously loyal," said Timothy. "I only 
wish I could find someone to stand up for me so nobly." 

"Oh but I do!" Desiree cried. "I always fight your battles." 

"Against whom?" said Timothy. 

She saw herself caught out, and blushed. 

"Oh, no one, no one in particular. Perhaps I was thinking of 
the boat, it does seem so unfair. And your article, whatever 
anybody says, I love it, and I've pasted it into my scrapbook, 
and ordered six copies to send to friends. There ! I must be off. 
Goodbye, Mr. Casson, and thank you for that perfect tea." 

Horse and rider passed through the gate and disappeared, but 
Timothy found himself listening to the clatter of hooves long 
after she was lost to view. Turning back to the house he caught 
sight of his shadow stretching out in front of him, long and 
thin. A trick of distortion gave it a sinister twist, as of someone 
creeping about with no good purpose, lago perhaps. 

Days of perplexity ushered in July, leaving Timothy, whose 
temperament was usually equable, a prey to contradictory 
moods. By some obscure mental process, which he himself did 
not understand, he had come to regard permission to use his 
boat as a sign that he had been accepted by the community of 
Upton; until that happened, he was still a foreigner, an out- 
lander as the natives called it. In some moods he regarded the 
permit as a victory, the imposing of his will on theirs ; the one 
had prevailed over the many ; like Julius C^sar he had come and 
seen and conquered Upton. At other times he regarded it as a 
favour they had conferred on him, a privilege that recognised 
his outstanding merit, but something that he could be grateful 
for, and Timothy, when not flown with pride, was quite content 
to be grateful. 

On the plane of practical politics he had convinced himself 



THE BOAT 209 

that if Mrs. Lampard's tenants agreed to let him row, she would 
have to withdraw her objection, though this did not diminish 
his wrath against her, rather the reverse. He longed for a letter 
from Desiree, authorizing him to arrange a clandestine meeting 
between her and the Due de Charleroi ; the role pf go-between 
appealed to him mightily, and he told himself he did not mind 
what the upshot was so long as Mrs. Lampard was check- 
mated. But the days passed, and no letter came. 

Nor, to his growing disquiet, did the promised invitation 
come from Captain Sturrock. This was much more serious. 
Had he forgotten? Had the Rector, whose influence was con- 
siderable, in the parish, persuaded him that Timothy was an 
undesirable element, to be looked on askance, and cold- 
shouldered, like the floating population of Midlanders whom 
they both disliked so much? 

Timothy brooded over this, and the more deeply because he 
had now very little else to do. The moment when he gave up his 
job, or rather when his job gave him up, had been like a deep 
draught of freedom which his thirsty spirit drank like wine. 
And for some time afterwards, when in thought he evoked it 
and put it to his lips, the elixir still worked. But soon it lost 
its potency. Freedom turned into leisure, and leisure into 
ennui; the mornings became deserts of inactivity, to be got over 
somehow ; and the period between tea and dinner, for Timothy 
the most fertile season of the day, was almost frighteningly 
empty. And when the day came round that should have brought 
his monthly cheque, he felt that freedom stank. 

He tried to kill time by filling in the many gaps in his reading. 
Miss Chadwick's bookshelves were well stocked, and he started 
on a course of Thackeray. But reading was a receptive occupa- 
tion, a centripetal process paring the self down to its core; it 
was no real substitute for the creative activity of writing, during 
which the self expands and blossoms, breathes new air and sees 
new sights, albeit only for an hour or two. Reading was listening, 
listening to a dead mind; writing was communication, words 
sent out to the living, and Timothy longed to communicate. 
Soon his body caught the infection of his mind's restlessness, 
and made its voice heard. Physical activity was not tlie same as 
creative activity, but it was a better substitute than reading. 



210 THE BOAT 

Why not join the L.D.V.? 

Timothy had debtated taking this step ever since the smoking 
concert had brought into his soUtary Ufe, however unfor* 
tunately and briefly, the warmth of fellowship. The salutes of 
the members in the village street, the sight of Wimbush in his 
uniform, kept his intention alive. He decided that he would 
broach the matter at Captain Sturrock's tea-table. It would be 
another symbol of his achieved solidarity with the village, it 
would be a subject of conversation, of congratulation, and they 
would like him the better for it. But the invitation had not 
come, and Timothy, who had unconsciously begun to regulate 
his actions, and even his thoughts, according to some fancied 
relationship, hostile or friendly, with the entity of Upton, said 
to himself, "No invitation, no L.D.V." 

Leaning over the parapet of the bridge at Swirrelsford, 
where he had gone one afternoon to see a cinema, and decided 
not to, among other loiterers as aimless as himself, he suddenly 
saw, on the bend of the river, almost out of sight, a boat-house, 
a landing stage, and a flotilla of rowing boats. Why had he 
never seen them before? 

Timothy had to stand for a long time in a queue, but at last 
the boatman, a quiet, sad little man, hooked up a boat for him; 
it was chipped and dirty and much the worse for wear, it had a 
fixed seat, the sculls did not meet in the middle and one was 
longer than the other ; even in the open air it seemed to smell of 
unwashed urchins; but it was a boat; and although stepping 
into it did not mean that he had received the freedom of Upton, 
did not mean that he had been taken to its heart or it to his, in 
fact meant hardly any of the things that embarking in his own 
boat at Upton (try not to think of that!) had come to mean, it 
meant something; the pushing off from the shore, the making 
for the middle of the stream, that gliding motion, the short 
cramped strokes and then the long swing — it meant something 
that satisfied Timothy's needs in a way that nothing else could. 

The Swirrel at Swirrelsford was a different river from the 
dimpled sparkling stream that laved the garden of the Old 
Rectory. It carried on its surface flotsam that the eye turned 
away from it ; it received noisome tributaries, frothing obscenely 



THE BOAT 211 

from electric-light plant and gasworks; it was discoloured and 
polluted, the town had demoralized it. 

Moreover, at the point where Timothy embarked, the Swirrel 
was as congested as a side-canal in Venice or as the Serpentine 
on a Bank Holiday. His fellow pleasure-seekers did not proceed 
up and down the river in an orderly manner ; soldiers and air- 
men mostly, sometimes escorting girls, they pulled wildly from 
one bank to another colliding with each other to the sound of 
splintering wood, screams, giggles, and loud, mirthless guffaws. 
Timothy's sense of oarsmanship was outraged by the way they 
rowed — often sitting two abreast, each holding an oar and not 
troubling to keep time with the other. He had to row looking 
over his shoulder to avoid the impending bumps. 'Took 
ahead, sir," he shouted, but they only laughed the more, for 
to them collisions, he discovered, were a great part of the fun. 
Frowning and irritable he fended them off with his hands ; but 
they were unconscious of offence — they smiled amiably, or 
laughed raucously, and he quickly realized that their attitude to 
the pastime was totally different from his. 

He remembered that when he rowed his sandolo on the 
Brenta or through the crowded canals of Venice the boatmen 
there would smile at each other, but for a different reason. 
They, who rowed for a living, could not understand how anyone 
could do it for fun. Timothy, when he realized this, did not 
mind their being amused at his expense, and he soon felt the 
same about these soldiers and airmen who, obliged by military 
discipline to spend a great part of the day performing, with set, 
expressionless faces and bodies clenched into an unnatural 
rigidity, correctly and well, exercises which were doubtless 
boring to most of them, looked forward to their outings on the 
river as an opportunity to relax, to assume whatever attitude 
came easiest, and to handle their boats as incorrectly and badly 
as they liked; for to do a thing badly is an affirmation of 
independence, whereas to do it well is to confess oneself a 
slave to other people's standards. 

So Timothy's irritation passed away; but all the same he 
was glad to be rid of the jostling. As he pressed his way up- 
stream, the shouts and laughter died, the water grew clear and 
sparkling; the river regained its country state. On one side the 



212 THE BOAT 

bank was low enough to see over ; channels with sluices pierced 
it, the relics of an ancient system of irrigation, long since dis- 
used. Willows and water-meadows, pearl-grey in the heat, 
carried the eye to a low range of hills. On the other side a 
railway embankment rose steeply, blocking out the view. 
Suddenly there was a rattle and a roar, and a train came along, 
in a flurry of steam and busy speed. The fireman was leaning 
out of the cab with his eyes fixed on the distance. Timothy 
waved to him, and the man, with a broad grin, waved back. 
Presently another train passed, going the other way, and again 
Timothy gave, and received, a salute. 

Afterwards Timothy came to count on these greetings from 
the unknown railwaymen. The embankment and the river only 
marched together for a few hundred yards, so it was essential to 
be punctual at the rendezvous. He found himself making great 
efforts to achieve this. If he failed, it appreciably lessened the 
pleasure of the afternoon; if he succeeded, he was corres- 
pondingly elated. The men always played up, though they had 
their moods and expressed them in gestures of varying en- 
thusiasm. Sometimes the fireman only would take the salute, 
sometimes the driver joined him; sometimes a languid hand 
would be raised, sometimes two arms would shoot up as 
though on wire. Sometimes the men would call out messages, 
obviously of a facetious nature, which he tried in vain to catch. 

Whatever it meant for the railwaymen, for Timothy the 
ritual exchange of signals represented whatever of general 
goodwill he still had to give. The return journey into the 
clashing boats, the laughter and the gramophone records, was 
something of an anti-climax. To reach the boat-house Timothy 
had to pass under the town bridge, and as often as not there was 
a pop-eyed urchin hanging over it, with working cheeks and 
protruding tongue, waiting to spit on his head. This was a 
different way of communicating with a stranger. Usually the 
missile went wide, but sometimes it hit, and stuck, and Timothy 
would look up angrily and see the mischievous little face 
broaden with satisfaction before its owner took to his heels and 
scurried away out of reach of its victim's impotent wrath. 

Fortified by tea in the town Timothy rode his bicycle back 
to Upton (for the infrequent buses did not serve him) a good 



THE BOAT 213 

eight miles over hilly country through the lengthening shadows; 
it was an effort, riding both ways, and though it soothed him 
physically, it sometimes left him tired and cross, reminding 
him he was past the fifty mark, and ought to slow down. A 
glance at the hall-table did not show the wished-for letter with 
the Upton postmark, and the long evening, scotched but by 
no means killed, lay coiled in front of him. 

On one such evening, not in the best of tempers, he was 
riding into the stable-yard to put his bicycle away when he saw 
a man he did not know leading half a dozen greyhounds on a 
leash. The fellow seemed to know his way about; he gave 
Timothy a glance over his shoulder and proceeded without 
further ado to open the door of the last of the four loose boxes 
and lead the dogs in. After several minutes he came out, shutting 
the door behind him, and was crossing the stable-yard to go out 
into the village street when Timothy stopped him. 

''What are you doing with those dogs?" he said. 

The man, who was wearing leggings and an old coat of whip- 
cord, rather long for him, and had a sharp-featured face, like a 
jockey's, seemed surprised at the question. 

*Tm putting them up for the night," he said. 

''But these stables are mine," said Timothy. "Who authorized 
you to put the dogs in them?" 

The man looked sullen. 

"They're Captain Sturrock's hounds," he said, "the same as 
he always has for the coursing meeting." 

"But I don't understand," said Timothy angrily. "Did he 
say you could put them here?" 

"I don't know anything about that," said the man. "My 
orders were to put them in the stables at the Old Rectory, same 
as usual." 

"Who gave you these orders?" 

"Captain Sturrock, of course." 

"Where do you come from?" demanded Timothy with 
growing indignation. 

"What's that to do with you? I'm paid by Captain Sturrock 
to look after his hounds when they come here for the meeting." 

"And supposing I order you to take them back to Captain 
Sturrock?" 



214 THE BOAT 

'The Captain might have something to say to that," said 
the man nastily. 

"Do you threaten me?" asked Timothy fiercely. 

"I don't threaten you," said the man looking Timothy 
squarely in the eye, ''but I pity you if I set about you." 

"Come on then," shouted Timothy. 

In the scuffle which followed he managed to land a fairly 
hard blow on his opponent's cheek. The man staggered and put 
his hand to his face. Timothy was following up his advantage 
when he heard the sound of wheels. A car stopped at his elbow 
and Nelson jumped out. 

Timothy and the dog-man were leaning towards each other, 
breathing hard, their coats bunched up at the shoulders, their 
wrists bare. Seeing the police'Constable the man stepped back, 
and without looking round, shambled off quickly through the 
open doors of the stable-yaxd. Nelson seemed to be on the 
point of following him, but Timothy shook his head. Oppor- 
tune as the policeman's arrival had been, he felt wretchedly 
ashamed at having been caught in a common brawl. Nelson 
asked if he could do anything for him, but again Timothy shook 
his head. He sat down on a chopping block and put back his tie, 
which had come out, and pulled down his sleeves and smoothed 
his hair. Nelson, who had averted his eyes from Timothy's 
toilette, when it was over turned round and said admiringly: 

"On passing through the gates I saw you give him a lovely 
wallop, sir. He won't forget that in a hurry." 

Timothy felt comforted and even appeased, and began to tell 
Nelson how the quarrel had arisen. But the recital brought all 
his anger back, and Nelson's comments which, though com- 
plimentary in general, were critical of particular points, did 
nothing to allay it. He begged the policeman not to tell anyone 
what had happened, and Nelson promised not to. 

Timothy was almost sick from anger and excitement. His 
heart beat so violently that he could scarcely stand. He went 
into the house and sat down in an easy chair with his hands 
along its arms, seeing nothing, aware only of the spring of anger 
that was welling up in him, staining his vision with the colour 
of blood. After a time he got up and went to his writing-table. 
His hands still trembled and his mind was too confused with 



THE BOAT 215 

feeling even to express its anger; but at last the letter was 

finished. 

*To Captain Sturrock, 

"Sir, 

"I notice that you are very careful of the rights of private 
property where your own interests are concerned. I wish you 
were as considerate for other people's. I should have found it 
easier to excuse your impertinence in sending your dogs to be 
lodged in my stables without asking my permission if the man 
who brought them had not also been intolerably rude. If you 
think this is conduct befitting an officer and a gentleman, I 
don't, and suspect that though you may once have been the one, 
you can never have been the other. But even if you had had the 
common decency to ask me, I should not have allowed my 
premises to be used for the purposes of a brutal, degrading and 
unmanly pastime for which I have a particular abhorrence. 
Unless the animals are removed before ten o'clock tonight, I 
shall turn them into the street. 

''Yours faithfully, 

'T. Casson." 

The letter became more literary as Timothy worked on it, 
and before the final draft was achieved, some of his anger had 
evaporated. But now his thoughts and his will came to the 
rescue of his failing rage; he remembered the months of 
frustration inflicted upon him by Captain Sturrock and others 
of his kidney, their bland refusal to have anything to do with 
him, and he hardened his heart. What rankled more than any- 
thing was Captain Sturrock's promise, already more than three 
weeks old, to ask him to his house. Timothy had built so much 
upon that invitation; until this very evening he had not quite 
ceased to hope; now he realized that these people's promises 
were so much pie-crust, dodges to gain time, face-saving 
devices under cover of which they could indulge their selfish- 
ness undisturbed. 

He took the letter and went out, with knees that still had 
the tremor of temper in them, into the red-gold, slanting sun- 
shine. The Old Stables was only five minutes' walk. Timothy 
observed, with the detached curiosity one feels when looking at 
a place one will never see again, the trim la\\Ti, tlie clipped 



216 THE BOAT 

bushes, the sarcen stones Uning the path, the miUtary order and 
tidiness of the garden. The house was old red brick, long and 
low; it still bore traces of its former function, but the process of 
conversion had robbed it of character, and there were one or 
two disgusting whimsies, an over-rustic porch which did 
not suit it, and hanging from the porch, a nasty arty little 
square lantern, which probably represented Captain Sturrock's 
idea of the old- world. 

Triangular mounds of rusty cannon balls flanked the door- 
way, as though to remind the visitor that Captain Sturrock's 
notions of warfare dated from the Commonwealth. He heard 
the letter drop into the letterbox, and walked slowly away, 
taking care not to look into the over-large, over- white, round- 
topped ugly windows. 

Timothy had little appetite for his dinner, and contrary to 
his custom, and much to Effie's concern, left half his food on his 
plate. 

''Beatrice will be disappointed, sir. And that nice chicken, 
too. They're ever so difficult to find." 

"And expensive to pay for," snapped Timothy, still ruffled. 
"But I'm afraid I can't oblige her, Effie; I'm off my food 
tonight." 

"It's nothing you've had to eat, I'm sure," said Effie. "There's 
something catching going about the village: I hope it isn't that." 

"Oh, I shall be all right tomorrow," said Timothy. 

"Beatrice will be ever so upset, when she's taken so much 
trouble," Effie warned him again. 

"I'm sorry, Effie," said Timothy, more gently, "I couldn't 
eat another mouthful." 

"You haven't had any bad news, sir? There's so much bad 
news going about." 

Timothy assured her he had not; but he noticed that her 
movements, took on a kind of ritual solemnity, and she looked 
at him with respect, almost with awe, as someone on whom the 
distinction of calamity had fallen. 

He was applying himself, without much success, to "Esmond" 
when Effie reappeared, still with her air of assisting at a tragedy. 

"Captain Sturrock's at the door, sir, and says he would like 
to speak to you." 



THE BOAT 217 

Timothy did not raise his eyes from the book. "Tell him I'm 
not well, please, Effie, and cannot see him." 

Presently Effie returned, and said, or rather chanted, ''Captain 
Sturrock presents his compliments, sir, and says he is sorry 
you are ill, and may he take the dogs away now?" 

''By all means," said Timothy. 

In a minute or two Effie was back again. "Captain Sturrock 
wants to know where the dogs are." 

Timothy told her. "You show him where they are, Effie." 

"I will sir," said Effie with alacrity. "He seems ever such a 
nice gentleman." 

"Does he?" said Timothy indifferently. 

Timothy spent a miserable night. The adrenalin, or whatever 
it was his temper had let loose, seemed to course round and 
round; then it collected into a hard ball in the middle of his 
stomach and no amount of bicarbonate of soda would disperse 
it. By three o'clock all that was left of his ilhhumour was a 
disagreeably thudding heart, unconquerable flatulence and a 
longing for sleep. His rage had petered out in indigestion. 
Will it turn into a gastric ulcer? he wondered, having recently 
read somewhere that this complaint had doubled since the 
war began. But although his body accused him of misusing 
it, his mind protested that he was in the right. "I must get used 
to being angry," he told himself, "it's only a habit like any 
other." At cock'Crow, calmed by this resolve, he began to doze, 
and dreamed that he was a hare being chased by greyhounds. 
"Stand up to them!" cried a voice, and he stopped in his 
tracks and looked round fiercely. All he saw was Captain 
Sturrock, who held out his hand, but Timothy would not 
take it. 

The hand proved to be Effie's, carrying his early morning tea. 

"I hope you feel better, sir?" she said solicitously. 

Timothy said he was much better. "I hope you're all right," 
something in the tone of her inquiry made him add. 

"Well, sir, both Beatrice and I are naturally upset, you 
couldn't expect us not to be after what happened." 

"Oh, did anything happen?" asked Timothy, surprised. 

"No, sir, but it might have, you being taken queer tlie way 
you was. And Captain Sturrock, he seemed quite upset, too. 



218 THE BOAT 

Beatrice said to me, 'Has Mr. Casson had a death?' We felt 
sure you'd had bad news, sir." 

'Tm afraid it was more bad temper than bad news," said 
Timothy, and felt the better for this small confession. 

*'Oh, but you're never bad-tempered, sir," said Ej9ie. ''Why, 
a gentleman was only saying to me the other day, 'Mr. Casson 
has only one fault, he's too good-tempered.'" 

"What a nice thing to say," cried Timothy, sitting up and 
reaching for the tea-pot. "Who was it, Efiie?" 

"Well, sir, if you won't repeat it, it was Mr. Wimbush." 

Timothy couldn't understand why he felt a little dis- 
appointed. Was he hoping she would say Captain Sturrock? 

The envelope was the one he had long been looking for ; the 
one with the Upton postmark and the address written in an 
unknown hand. 
"Dear Casson," he read, 

"I don't know what you will think, not having heard from 
me for all this time, but perhaps you have forgotten that on the 
evening of the L.D.V. beano you promised to come and 
see us. I was looking forward to that and the Missus was going 
to write to you, but as ill-luck would have it that damned 
draught (do you remember it?) caught me in a tender spot, and 
I'm ashamed to say it, it sounds so silly in the middle of 
summer, but the thing turned into bronchitis and I was laid up 
for weeks — sign of anno domini, I'm afraid — and I only got 
up a day or two ago, feeling as weak as a rat. But I daresay some- 
body told you, or not seeing me in Church you concluded I was 
on the sick-list. 

"However, all's well that ends well. I've cheated the under- 
taker this time and my wife and I will be most happy if you will 
come to tea with us on Thursday, if you are free, and we'll have 
a general pow-wow, not about anything in particular, of course, 
just a sort of survey of the lie of the land. We're asking Harbord, 
and Bellew, and one or two more of the old familiar faces, and 
very much hope to rope you in. 

"Now I'm going to ask you a great favour. I don't know if 
your interests lie that way, but it's our annual Coursing 
Meeting the day after tomorrow and as usual I've entered some 
hounds. Such a pretty sport, coursing, don't you think, if only 



THE BOAT 219 

this beastly electric hare doesn't kill it. In the past, Judge 
Chadwick always let me keep my hounds in the stable at the 
Old Rectory for the two days of the meeting, and his sister did, 
too, while she was there. So it's become a sort of tradition. 
Quite a lot of hounds come down for the meeting, and there's 
nowhere else in the village for mine to go. So I would take it as 
a great kindness, old boy, if you would give them the hospitality 
of one of your loose boxes. There's a chap looking after them, 
so they won't be any bother to you. If they yap in the night just 
shout out of the window and tell them to go to hell. I'm sure 
they won't, but I feel the whole thing is rather an imposition 
and if you decide you would rather not take it on I shall quite 
understand, but look forward to seeing you on Thursday. 

''Yours sincerely, 

''James Sturrock. 

"P.S. — Since writing, I've heard the hounds are on the way, 
so this may be rather rushing you, but hope you won't take it 
amiss." 

Long ago Timothy's guardian had advised him always to 
examine a coincidence, because as often as not you'll find it 
isn't a coincidence at all, but a link in the chain of cause and 
effect. Was it the more comforting, he wondered, to regard the 
mistiming of Captain Sturrock's letter as a blind hit of chance, 
or as one of a series of seeming mischances, ordered and 
inevitable as the rungs of a ladder, which the logic of his nature 
required for its development? In either case he was the loser; 
but if character was destiny, and if he attracted to himself 
fiascos as a magnet attracts iron filings, the outlook was dismal. 

Was it his destiny to be friendless? In England friendship 
had been hard to come by, but in Italy, on the Brenta, the 
golden afternoon had been loud with the voices of his friends. 
They had just arrived from England ; they were astonished and 
delighted with what they saw; even Mrs. Lampard could not 
withhold her praise. On the green ramparts of Asolo, in the 
romantic clefts of the Euganean Hills, in the enchanted alleys of 
the garden of Valsanzibio the many toned voice of friendship 
chanted in thanksgiving. To whom? To Timodiy ? No, of course 
not. But to something (was it too much to claim?) that came into 
being where he was, that flowered spontaneously in his climate. 



220 THE BOAT 

He had been a conductor of happiness, a channel of good 
fellowship. Was that too much to claim? Say rather that his 
friends, his guests, his servants, his acquaintances round the 
Villa Lucertola, brought all that radiance with them. Still, he 
reflected it, he was the mirror in which they saw their joy. And 
now the visit's over ; adieu, glorious days of sunshine (but not 
more glorious than this in Upton), and the car to take them to 
the station is waiting on the opposite bank of the river. They see 
it but they are loth to go, they linger on the steps of the modest 
portico, they look around them, finding new forms of appre^ 
elation, new modes of expressing their thanks to Timothy the 
magician (but that is claiming too much!) who has conjured all 
this up for them. They surround him with gratitude and 
affection, so that there is not a part of him that the raw air 
touches, not a fibre of his mind that is not satisfied. But now 
they must go; the servants are waiting with the luggage, Ar- 
mando in his blue-striped coat, Amalia in her unmourning 
but habitual black; like sentries they stand on the water-steps, 
unarmed sentries, sentries wreathed in smiles, sharing (how 
often have they been told of it!) the glory, the honour, the 
unparalleled delightfulness of the visit. And below them, ready 
to ferry the returning guests across, shabby but gay, old but 
serviceable, nestling in the rushes, lies the boat. 

The boat ! 

Effie was right when she said that Captain Sturrock was a 
nice gentleman. The letter showed he was. Timothy glanced at it 
again. It was like a present of glass or china that should have 
been a pleasure to receive, but owing to faulty packing has 
arrived broken, beyond repair, and is now an embarrassment 
both to giver and receiver. Perhaps Timothy could never have 
made a friend of Captain Sturrock; their differences were too 
great. He was ready to withdraw brutal, degrading and unmanly, 
as epithets for coursing, but he could not agree that it was a 
pretty sight — two large dogs chasing one small hare. And in any 
case he had said too much. One can apologise for an injury, 
but not for an insult; in other days Captain Sturrock might 
have called him out. Timothy had acted in haste and must take 
the consequences, that was the only dignified course. What they 
would be he had no idea ; but he had again made a fool of him- 



THE BOAT 221 

self, and this time he would not get off so lightly. 

In refusing the Captain's invitation to tea he said he very 
much regretted the hasty expressions he had used in his 
previous letter. The fact was he had lost his temper with the 
man who was looking after the dogs. He was very sorry about 
the Captain's bronchitis, and trusted he would have no return 
of it. He added that he hoped the Captain would be successful 
at the meeting; but this he deleted, feeling that the situation had 
gone beyond the reach of an olive branch. 



222 THE BOAT 



CHAPTER XV 

As he was taking his bicycle out of the garage ready for his 
afternoon ride, Wimbush came up to him. There was a twinkle 
in the gardener's eye, but his manner was unusually respectful. 

''Well, sir, I heard you had a little disagreement last night 
with a gentleman who spoke out of turn, as the saying is. I must 
congratulate you." 

Timothy's heart sank. 

''I asked Nelson not to say anything about it," he muttered. 

*T'm not saying that Nelson did, sir," said Wimbush warmly. 
''Nelson has his faults, but being a policeman he knows how to 
keep his mouth shut. No, it was the fellow hisself who was seen 
at the local, and he had two black eyes as big as hen's eggs." 
The gardener chuckled. 

"Oh, but Wimbush, he couldn't have had, I hardly touched 
him." 

"Well, sir, there was several as saw him, and said his nose was 
bleeding, too. You gave him a proper pasting, sir, you spoilt his 
beauty all right." 

Timothy sighed despairingly. What would the village think 
of him now? 

"Everybody's talking about it, sir, there was two or three 
stopped me on my way home to dinner. They said we didn't 
think Mr. Casson had it in him, being a church-goer and almost 
a Christian, you might say." 

"I'm very sorry about the whole business," said Timothy 
wretchedly. 

The gardener's tawny leonine eyes opened in astonishment; 
red flecks were dancing in them, and he looked as if he might be 
going to roar. 

"You shouldn't say that, sir, begging your pardon. Why it 
might easily have been the other way round, him being a tough 
customer, by all accounts, and you only a gentleman. You'll 
excuse me saying it, sir, but if it had been known the fight was 
coming off the odds would have been nine to two against you." 



THE BOAT 223 

Timothy wondered how these figures had been arrived at, 
but felt too ashamed to inquire. "It was all a mistake," he said, 
*'and such a bad example, too." 

Wimbush looked very serious. 

"You're wrong there, sir, you're quite wrong. Why, all the 
chaps think the world of you. You're the kind of man the village 
wants to wake it up, and give it a lead, like. Gentlemen like 
Colonel Harbord are all very well in their way, I'm not saying 
anything to the contrary, but you'd hardly know they were 
soldiers, they go about so quiet. They may be all right for 
map-reading but they wouldn't be no good in a rough house. 
They'd let the other fellow have the last word, if you take my 
meaning." 

"That's what I ought to have done," said Timothy. 

"No, sir, you mustn't say that. You taught the chap a lesson 
he'll remember all his life. 'Tisn't as if he belong to Upton. 
He's just a chap from nowhere in particular — Birmingham, 
like as not, he speaks that broad — and what does he do? He 
forces an entry and uses insulting language and behaviour — • 
those were Nelson's very words." 

"Oh, but I thought you said Nelson — " 

"I did say so, sir. Those are the words Nelson would have 
used if he hadn't been careful not to say anything. He could do 
no less. He said he'd have charged the man but you wouldn't 
let him. He said he was sorry about that because it would have 
brought him credit. When the high-ups in the police find a 
village constable like Nelson not reporting anybody they 
think he must be slacking because it stands to sense there must 
be crime everywhere, in Upton as well as other places." 

Timothy said he was sorry Nelson had missed his chance. 

"Bless you, sir," said Wimbush, "he don't hold it against you. 
He said to me, 'There may be better garages in Upton than Mr. 
Casson's, I'm not saying there aren't — there's Colonel Har- 
bord's that has hot pipes and an examination pit, but I wouldn't 
put my car in any of 'em, not if Mr. Casson himself asked 
me to." 

Timothy felt much touched and warmed at heart to be so 
firmly supported by the arm of the law. 

"Well, I'm glad you think I did right, Wimbush." 



224 THE BOAT 

"Tisn't only I, sir, the whole village be saying the same 
thing." 

The village street vv^as drowsy at this hour. The depth of 
summer, the depth of the afternoon, lay upon it, a two-fold 
weight, heavy as an enchanted sleep. No process was at work 
towards growth or decay: all was fruition; Nature at its prime. 
The light could do no more; it had given to visibility all the 
word could mean, all that Giorgione saw; the air was like a 
luminous fluid whose unseen pressure retarded movement, 
whether of people, smoke or trees. All things had lost their own 
quality and partook of the quality of summer. The ducks 
languidly dabbling their bills in the pond, the cat crossing the 
road, its tail as vertical and motionless as the plumes of smoke 
from the chimneys, the flowers and still more the weeds, which 
rioted on the patches of untended ground between the houses, 
and sometimes in the gardens themselves, had reached their 
peak hour of luxuriance. A halt had been called in the eternal 
effort of the year. 

Only Timothy, it seemed, felt the need for further striving, 
for moving his position, for altering his state of mind, for going 
one better. Not that he was the only human being astir in 
Upton. One or two farm labourers lumbered towards him, 
perhaps on their way from one field to another. Their gait, 
the slowest that was consonant with progress, scarcely dis' 
turbed the idle rhythm of the afternoon, for they, too, had 
yielded to the spell of summer. But when they saw him they 
nodded with a quick lateral jerk of the head that was intimate 
and full of complicity, and not, Timothy thought, devoid of 
admiration. Even so might Joe Louis be saluted, swaggering 
down the streets of Harlem after another lightning knock-out. 
He saw to it that their tributes did not go unaclcnowledged. 

And here was someone else, a lady walking down the middle 
of the road, but walking was hardly the word, for she moved 
like a child, at almost every pace between running and standing 
still, between swinging majestically and tripping delicately. 
Plunging and dipping, she came onwards like a pinnace. 
Timothy recognised her from afar, but had she recognised, 
would she recognise, him? An inner glow, he knew, absorbed 



THE BOAT 225 

her vision ; of the outer world she saw only what she chose to see, 
her long thick eyelashes made a sort of filter in which visibility 
was effortlessly sifted; had a giraffe passed her she might not 
have noticed it and yet the creature could not feel affronted; 
it was only that today was not her day for noticing giraffes. 
But Timothy felt his situation so delicate, after all that had 
happened, that the chance of being invisible to her was a risk 
he dare not take. Dismounting in a flurry of arrested movement, 
he barred her way. 

''Why, it's Mr. Casson!" she said. "How strange to see you 
here! But how silly of me, I should have said, how delightful — 
but it is always strange to meet someone w^ho has just been in 
your thoughts." 

"Was I in yours, Mrs. Purbright?" asked Timothy, in spite 
of his misgivings feeling at once that heightened state of 
awareness that her presence always brought him. 

"Did I say you, Mr. Casson? How stupid of me. Of course, 
you are a constant guest, my preferred visitor. But no, it was 
someone who vaguely reminded me of you, not you at all, a 
sort of doppelganger. We were talking en tete-a-tete." 

"And I interrupted you!" said Timothy. 

"But how opportunely! I would rather converse with you 
than with your shade. An image gets out of date; how can I 
tell if you are the same as when I saw you last?" 

"Do I look different?" asked Timothy. 

"Do you know, I think you do. Don't ask me how. One 
notices changes, being away so long." 

"A month, was it?" 

"Very nearly, and what strides summer has taken! This 
garden" — she waved to it — "was full of roses when I went 
away. Where are they now? And these nettles, how tall they 
have grown! And all this dark, heavy greenery, shrouding 
everything! It's like August. The year has grown much older 
since I went away." 

Timothy considered this. 

"I do get the feeling of a turning-point," he said. 

"You do? How interesting, because I was only saying the 
same thing just now, when I had you, so to speak, in the 
dentist's chair." 



226 THE BOAT 

"Was I a good patient?" asked Timothy. 

"Oh, very good! You never complained, not even when my 
clumsy fingers touched a nerve." 

Timothy leaned on his bicycle, for he thought this might be 
a long business. 

"Tell me some of the things you said." 

"Oh no, Mr. Casson, I couldn't dream of it. Our conversa- 
tion was entirely private, and to speak of it, even to you, would 
be a breach of confidence. I see Fm keeping you from your ride, 
and exercise is so necessary for you. Good-day." 

She was moving off, out of his life to join the circle of 
shadows that surrounded him. He called her back. 

"Oh please, Mrs. Purbright, just give me the gist of your 
conversation." 

She turned back, irresolutely. "Oh, it was nothing at all. So 
interfering and so one-sided. I'll only tell you if you promise me 
to think of my interlocutor not as yourself, nor even as my idea 
of you, which may be quite mistaken, but as an independent 
entity, an abstraction, a victim of my meddlesomeness. Shall we 
call him X?" 

"By all means," said Timothy. His personality seemed to ebb 
away from him: he was anonymous at last. 

"But we mustn't go on standing in the middle of the road," 
said Mrs. Purbright urgently. "Do you know I sometimes 
tremble for your safety?" 

"Or for the safety of X?" said Timothy, wheeling his bicycle 
to the side of the road. 

"For the purposes of my respectful regard and concern," 
said Mrs. Purbright, "you are as one. Shall we stand under the 
shadow of this tree? Aren't you afraid of sunstroke, going 
without a hat?" 

"I always did in Italy," said Timothy. 

"But X told me that in Italy, dear Italy, the dangers are not 
the same as they are here." 

"I wonder what he meant," said Timothy. 

"I was afraid to ask him." 

"Afraid?" said Timothy. 

"Yes, he has such an excellent sense of humour, and when he 
laughs there's no stopping him." 



THE BOAT 227 

Timothy detected a gleam under Mrs. Purbright's long 
lashes. 

**How inconvenient for him!" he said. 

**Yes, but only for him. He gets embarrassed, but everyone 
else rather enjoys the joke." 

** Every one?" 

* 'Oddly enough X raised that point. He thought his laughter 
might have given offence. I told him, on the contrary. There 
was no one, literally no one, who did not, either at the time or 
upon reflection, feel the better for his outburst." 

"How X must have enjoyed his tete-a-tete," said Timothy. 
*'I wish my dentist was as comforting." 

**Yes, but wait. I got out my little probe, and told X he had 
been unkind to avoid places where his society had always been 
welcome." 

**I can think of a good many things X might have said to 
that." 

''He did say them" 

"Did he say he wished you hadn't been away from Upton at 
the time?" 

"Yes, but I dismissed that as flattery. I said it was ridiculous 
for a man like him to feel that in a small place such as the one 
we had been discussing he needed an interpreter or a protector. 
Be yourself, I said ; people will appreciate you far more for what 
you are than for what you want them to think you." 

"That was a touch of the drill. Did he flinch or cry 'oh!'?" 

"He was extremely patient at first, but he began to argue." 

"How very unlike me this man X is." 

"Oh, completely. I said so, didn't I? A hypothetical case. 
But I suppose I had touched a tender spot, for he got rather 
angry." 

"Angry? With you?" 

"Yes, and not only with me, with everyone. For a moment I 
hardly recognised him. I felt quite frightened, as though a 
stranger was talking to me." 

"X is proverbially a bit of a problem." 

"I suppose so. But he had always seemed such a good- 
natured man." 

"Remember you told him to be himself," said Timothy. 



228 THE BOAT 

*'Yes, but this was being someone else. And he didn't stop 
at words, he actually came to blows." 

''With you?" 

''No, not with me, though I felt the impact of his anger quite 
distinctly. He wouldn't have hurt a woman, I am sure. No, with 
some person of no account who was passing through the village. 
They actually had a fight." 

"His name must be mud," said Timothy. 

"Quite the opposite, quite the opposite. He is the hero of the 
hour. I told him so. Everyone, I said, who has any kind of 
grudge against society, or against his neighbour, or against 
himself, who has hard words or hard feelings to dispose of, 
gets twice as angry when he thinks of X." 

"This X must be a popular fellow," said Timothy. 

"He is, Mr. Casson, he is. With his own party, of course 
he is. With the Exites, or should I say the exiles, since many of 
them are living far from their own homes, his name is a rallying 
point, almost a battle-cry." 

"X forever! The unknown quantity, the dark horse!" 

Mrs. Pur bright smiled. 

"But there is another faction, who are much less vocal, but 
just as convinced, the anti-Exites." 

"Can there be such people, Mrs. Purbright?" 

"X asked me precisely that question. I told him, as we walked 
along, that there was hardly a house in which there was someone 
who was not for him or against him, and some were divided 
against themselves." 

"Is the Rectory divided?" asked Timothy. 

"The Church is above politics, Mr. Casson. It only seeks a 
remedy." 

Timothy was silent for a moment or two, then he said, "How 
was X reacting to all this?" 

"Oh!" said Mrs. Purbright, "what a difficult question. If 
only I knew! It is so different talking to a private person and 
parleying with a general at the head of his army ! Falstaff cannot 
take the same liberties with King Henry that he did with Prince 
Hal." 

"You found X so much changed, then?" 

"Rather I would say, so certain of being in the right." 



THE BOAT 229 

*'I don't think X sounds a very nice man," said Timothy. 

*'Oh, but he is! Only one would not wish to feel altogether 
in the right." 

**No?" said Timothy doubtfully. 

"No." Mrs. Purbright's voice was firm. 

*'Had you any advice to offer to this dangerous man?" said 
Timothy at last. 

**Oh, Mr. Casson, how should I dare? I painted him a picture 
of the village as it soon might be, split into two camps ; I pointed 
out the discomforts and risks of such a cleavage, at a time when 
we ought to be united as never before; I showed him the stiff 
lips and averted eyes, the decline of mutual helpfulness, the 
increase of mutual suspicion; I recalled from the past small 
acts of spite that had made feuds between families, long, septic 
quarrels which even now impair the harmony of village life; 
Cassandra-like I prophesied words, blows and bloodshed; I 
mentioned the added burdens on my husband whom Nature 
has not fashioned for a peacemaker, though he does his best to 
be; I referred, but only in passing" — Mrs. Purbright waved her 
hand — ''to my own small share in the life of the community, 
suspected by each party of sympathising with the other, going 
from house to house shunned like an infected person; seeing 
the little gatherings I have to preside over dwindle, being 
criticised for everything I do." She paused and looked away 
from Timothy. ''And I even ventured to tell X what effect all 
this . . . this cancer of ill-will might have on him." 

"Ah," said Timothy, clutching his bicycle. "And what effect 
did you foresee?" 

"Oh, Mr. Casson, how can one enter into the mind of 
another person, especially a person who is sure of being in the 
right, and can command a large, devoted following? How put 
oneself in his place ? I spoke in the most general way of the risk 
to a sensitive, imaginative nature, much alone, as X unfor- 
tunately is — of dwelling too much on one thought, and that a 
resentful one ; of the avenues of experience that this might be 
expected to stop up, of the over-development of the will at the 
expense of the other faculties, of the danger to health and even 
to sanity. I didn't say much, how could I ? I spoke of die plots and 
counterplots, the conversations all ending in one com'ersation, 



230 THE BOAT 

the thoughts all ending in one thought. 1 tried to indicate what 
his new way of life would be like — seeing how far he could go, 
stopping just in time, looking for adherents in unlikely places, 
sowing discontent. I warned him of betrayals, and of fidelities 
that would be worse than betrayals. I told him of the lies he 
would have to tell, the deceits he would have to practise. 
Speaking like a doctor, I gave his moral nature six months to 
live. But there was hardly anything I could say, for you see, his 
mind was made up." 

''You seem to have said a good deal," observed Timothy. 

'*Oh no, I barely touched the fringes of the subject. I could 
have gone much further but — " here her voice was drowned by 
the roar of a low'flying aeroplane. Timothy waited for the din 
to subside. 

"But what?" he said. 

''Well, you see," said Mrs. Purbright, "I had a proposal to 
make." 

"Can't you tell me?" 

"Oh no, I think Fd better not. Let our little fantasy end here 
in this dear old village, so different from the place I have been 
describing, and let us bury X, for soon he will have to be 
buried." 

She spoke with so much vehemence that Timothy started. 

"Tell me your proposal, Mrs. Purbright. What do you want 
me to do?" 

Mrs. Purbright stared at him. 

"You, Mr. Casson? But we were talking about X." 

Timothy felt himself trembling and saw that perspiration had 
broken out on Mrs. Purbright's forehead. She made a gesture 
of utter weariness. 

"What is the use? X rejected my proposal, Mr. Casson." 

"But I might accept it." 

She shook her head. 

"I have talked far too much. And yet I have not talked to you, 
though for weeks I have been looking forward to it. How silly 
of me. You must go now. I mustn't keep you. But just tell me 
this: how have you been getting on?" 

"Well, so — so. A few little ups and downs, you know." 

"Village life is so dull," said Mrs. Purbright. "Nothing ever 



THE BOAT 231 

happens. I Sometimes I feel I should like to shake it up, and send 
everyone flying, as Alice did the pack of cards." 

**As X would have done," Timothy reminded her. 

''We mustn't go back to X." 

Timothy sighed. ''You are so tantalizing. You offer me some- 
thing, and then you snatch it away." 

"Only to save you the trouble of handing it back to me. 
Besides, you probably know what it is." 

"I haven't the remotest idea." 

"X said that." 

"That man again! I hoped I was cleverer than he is." 

"You are much cleverer," said Mrs. Purbright. "Only you see 
his position gives him great power." 

"He is so unlike me," said Timothy, "that I don't see how 
you ever fitted us into the same thought. Power for good, or 
power for evil?" 

"For both. I told him so. It was the basis of my appeal. 
You hold us all, I said, in the hollow of your hand. Only you 
can save us." 

"And didn't he respond? The man must be a kind of Heath- 
cliff." 

"He thought I was exaggerating. I assured him I wasn't. 
But how could I convince him? By saying the river would run 
with blood? By saying he would see half the people he knew 
strung up to lamp-posts? By saying that the village would be 
laid waste, and left a prey to the crows and ravens? Dare I 
use such arguments to a man of X's elegant and sophisticated 
mind, and with such a keen sense of the ridiculous? I did, and I 
said that all this could be averted if he would make one sacrifice. 
I reminded him of the value of the spectacular in turning 
people from a fixed idea; I said that his act, like a column of 
fire shooting up to heaven, would change the character of every- 
body's thoughts. They would be lost in amazement; their minds 
would go up, with the leaping flames ; they would join hands and 
dance round the great pyre singing hymns of thanksgiving and 
praise." 

"ToX?" 

"To him and to all the heavenly powers." 

"And he refused the boon?" 



232 THE BOAT 

''Yes, he said the sacrifice would be too great. But I forgot to 
mention one thing." 

''What was that?" 

Mrs. Purbright looked fixedly at Timothy, and dropped her 
voice. "Have you ever considered if the river was suitable for 
rowing, Mr. Casson?" 

Timothy, his mind jolted and jarred, could only repeat, 
"Suitable?" 

"Well, safe. When I besought X to burn his boat, I forgot to 
put that question to him." 

In the glow of his great renunciation, Timothy rode on 
towards Swirrelsford. Thinking over his conversation with 
Mrs. Purbright, he realized that he had reached his decision 
long before she had told him what the sacrifice was to be. He 
had not guessed what was in her mind, but when she told him, 
it seemed inevitable, so perfectly had she adapted the means to 
the end. Somehow she had managed to cut the thousand fila- 
ments that bound him to the boat, and now it seemed just as 
necessary to part with it as before it had seemed essential to 
keep it. The two gestures were complementary ; both had come 
to involve his strongest feelings, both were intensifications of his 
inmost self, both were symbols of victory. But whereas one 
meant the contraction of his entire being, the discarding of all 
desires except the single impulse to have his own way, the other 
was an enlargement of himself, a holocaust on to which he 
could gloriously fling every impulse, great or small, that he had 
ever entertained, every accretion of experience, every variation 
of personality, that had visited him since the dawn of self- 
consciousness. 

With every revolution of the wheels he felt his obligation to 
Mrs. Purbright increase. She had performed a miracle, and at no 
small cost to herself; she was quite done up with all the 
nervous energy she had put out. He, too, had been exhausted 
by the conflict with her will, so exhausted that he wondered if 
he should go home and postpone his expedition until tomorrow. 
But the mood of sacrifice was on him and he did not want to 
break it; beside, with the wish to free himself of the boat, had 
come the knowledge of how he must set about it, and that 



THE BOAT 233 

entailed going to Swirrelsford. 

He almost wished Mrs. Purbright had not brought up the 
point of the unsuitability of the river. It was a good debating 
point, no doubt; but it tinged his act of self'sacrifice with the 
leaden hues of self-interest. Just as two excuses are less effective 
than one, so two reasons for doing the right thing are likely to 
damage each other. Moreover, he was certain she exaggerated. 
All through, indeed, she had exaggerated. Timothy was not 
conceited enough to suppose that his determination to retain 
the boat would set the village by the ears and divide it against 
itself. That was picturesque overstatement, which might 
contain a grain of truth. But to say the river was dangerous was 
a plain mis-statement, a characteristically feminine appeal 
to his fears. Timothy had never seen the Devil's Staircase, 
on which she based her warning; not many people had seen 
it, for it was situated in closely preserved waters a mile or 
so below the village. But Wimbush had seen it and he said that 
far from being a kind of Niagara it was in normal times the 
merest trickle between boulders, resembling, Timothy gathered, 
the Swallow Falls in a dry summer. It might easily be impassable 
to a boat, simply for lack of water deep enough to float it. 
True, below the falls was the so-called bottomless pool, beloved 
of fishermen ; but Wimbush was of opinion that any full-sized 
man, such as he or Mr. Casson, would be able to stand up in it, 
and in any case it could only be reached from below ; the rocks 
of the David's Staircase would be an effective barrier to any boat 
coming from above. Thirty or forty years ago, before the river 
was so strictly preserved, picture postcards were sold in the 
village shop showing a most imposing cataract, the rocks 
scarcely visible in bursts of spray and rushing, mud-green 
water; but Wimbush had never seen it in such angry mood; 
and was it probable something would happen, which had 
never happened yet in his experience? 

Thus the legend of the falls had been debunked; and the 
only grievance Timothy had against Mrs. Purbright was that, to 
strengthen her plea for the abolition of the boat, she had tried 
to scare him with it. 

At first he had been so dominated by her picture of the 
destruction of the boat that he had assumed diat that was the 



234 THE BOAT 

only way to dispose of it. It would be lifted from its shrine 
among the stained-glass windows, dragged across the lawn and 
through the stable-yard, like a witch, like a heretic, like a 
malefactor, onto the village green; and there faggots would be 
piled under it, anointed with all the pitch and tar and paraffin 
that the village could produce. Thus it would remain for a day 
or two, awaiting combustion, the cynosure of all eyes; little 
boys would press around it, with matchboxes in their pockets, 
longing to have a chance to set light to it before its time. In the 
end it might have to be roped off. Then, when its presence had 
been fully advertised, and its meaning made known to everyone, 
Timothy would issue invitations, beginning with Colonel 
Harbord, Commander Bellew, Captain Sturrock, Sir Watson 
Stafford and the rest, to a dinner party; and when they had all 
eaten and drunk as much as they could, or more, they would 
repair to the Green, shortly before midnight, where they would 
find the whole village, massed in a hollow square, motionless 
and silent. There would be a brief ceremony of dedication; 
Timothy would make a speech protesting his affection for the 
village, which would be greeted by a deep-throated rumble of 
congratulation and approval. Following this, a whispered 
conversation between Timothy and his guests in which the 
honour of setting fire to the boat would be disclaimed by 
them and by a general vote conferred on him; and he with a 
brand or torch soaked in kerosene, flaming smokily and 
smelling strong and resinous, would advance to the pyre. 

At once, scarcely giving him time to leap back, the flames 
would start up, smoke-crowned, with a crackle and a hiss; the 
sentinel poplars would be flood-lit to their summits ; a murmur 
would go through the ranks of the spectators, rising to a roar 
that would drown the roar of the flames ; everyone would stand 
and cheer and slap each other on the back ; and Timothy and his 
guests, flinging off their tail-coats and white waistcoats and 
possibly more, since the heat would be almost unbearable, 
would dance like dervishes round the pyre. From time to time, 
wild-eyed and with her hair in disorder, Mrs. Purbright, the 
prophetess, would dart forward with an inarticulate cry and 
fling upon the conflagration sweet-smelling oils, filling the air 
with the scent of jessamine and honeysuckle. 



THE BOAT 235 

A boat is a frail thing, hardly thicker than matchboard, 
though composed of so many and such costly woods. Now it is 
alight all along the delicately-lined gunwale ; now the seat at the 
back has caught; the smouldering cushions have burst into 
flame; and see, the very sculls are burning; a tongue of fire is 
licking round their blades. Timothy dashes forward and picks 
one out and holds it, flaming, high above his head. A new wave 
of cheering bursts out, stamping feet mark a rhythm ; they are all 
singing Tor he's a jolly good fellow.' The Green is now as 
bright as day; radiance streams up into the firmament; the 
bonfire has conquered the darkness in the heavenly places, as 
well as in the human heart. 

But what is this distant, but insistent throbbing, with its 
missed beat and syncopated rhythm, that, half-heard at first, 
now begins to throb in their ears like the pulse of blood? No 
need to ask; the first stick of bombs has already burst, miles 
away, but in a minute, guided by the bonfire, the raiders 
will be right overhead. 'Take cover! Take cover!' In a trice the 
Green is deserted; the noise of scurrying feet dies away, the 
terrible, inexorable iambics overheard grow louder. All the 
spectators have vanished into the night. Timothy is the last to 
leave the scene; he watches it from his gate. The boat is now 
quite consumed, yet its form is perfectly preserved, a long, 
glowing skeleton along which the wind plays in waves of whiter 
heat. Suddenly its spine breaks and it dissolves into ashes, 
already blackening, and at the same moment a prodigious crash 
announces that the Germans have discovered Upton. 

No, the idea of the bonfire must be abandoned, if for no 
other reason than that it would contravene the black-out 
regulations. But in any case, thought Timothy, now restored to 
reality, why destroy the boat? He couldn't help smiling at him- 
self to think how literally he had taken Mrs. Purbright's 
metaphor. The boat was valuable, it could still be a source of 
pleasure, it might even be a source of profit. Everything had 
increased in price since the war began; why not a boat? It 
might already be worth twice as much as he had given for it. 
Timothy had lost his job; some of his investments were not 
paying as they should ; a hundred and sixt>^ pounds would be 



236 THE BOAT 

most useful. To part with the boat as if it were an investment 
that had gone up in value was no doubt a less spectacular way of 
getting rid of it than a public cremation; but was it not more 
rational? And less vulgar, less ostentatious? The village would 
appreciate his gesture none the less because he had not, finan- 
cially, been the loser by it. Indeed, if he burnt it they might 
think he was batty, or that he had decided to do away with it in 
a fit of pique, because he wasn't allowed to use it. They would 
shake their heads and tap their foreheads. Whereas if he sold 
it they would realize that he was a practical man like themselves, 
making the best of a bad job. ''Jolly sensible of Casson; now 
that he's got rid of his boat, we can all get together." 

And think of the children who would enjoy rowing in it, and 
trailing their fingers in the water! And the soldiers and airmen, 
poor fellows, who were at a loose end in the afternoons; how 
many of them it would save from less salutary and healthful 
pastimes! Up and down the river it would go, carrying loving 
couples, helping to increase the waning stock of the world's 
happiness; it would lose its status as an amateur, of course, it 
would ply for hire ; it would be a public conveyance. But wasn't 
that better than rotting slowly away, in a twilight stained with 
blue and orange gleams, and smelling of decaying weed, where 
no one, not even its owner (for it was weeks since Timothy 
had unlocked the door) ever saw it? And sometimes, if he was 
lucky, he might find it next on the list, awaiting its old master, 
and he could hire it and pretend it was his. He would still be a 
benefactor, to himself, to the public, and to the Swirrelsford 
boatman, who had often complained to him of the difficulty of 
replenishing his fleet. 

Compared with the other, it would be an ignominious exit 
for a guest that had made so proud an entry — that, even when 
caged and bound and denied its freedom, had carried the cargo 
of so many hopes, that had been launched a thousand times in 
his imagination, although in reality it had never left the shore. 
When my ship comes in! — but his had never gone out; it had 
stayed indoors, and so had he. Where were the friends he 
should have made, the houses that should have been open to 
him, the harvest of shared experiences that he had meant to lay 
up for himself at Upton, as he had garnered them on the 



THE BOAT 237 

Brenta? Experiences he had had, of course, but they were all 
negative, all in opposition, all strengthening the will at the 
expense of the inclinations. Somebody must be humbled in 
order that Timothy might stand upright. It was a dreary record, 
and he was glad to be writing finis to it, and turning over a new 
page free of grumbles and grievances, a blank page. 

He hurried on, for his conversations with Wimbush and 
Mrs. Pur bright had made him late and today he had a special 
reason, which he had forgotten until now, for not falling behind 
his schedule. It was a ridiculous reason which to think of made 
him hotter than he already was ; but as the suburbs of Swirrels- 
ford drew near, the black and white houses, the gardens gay 
with marigold and geranium, he redoubled his efforts. He 
wanted to keep his rendez-vous with the two trains. Unbeliev- 
able as it was, considering the scanty nature of the acquain- 
tance, but he had had a tiff with them. Not with the trains 
theselves, though now he viewed them with much less favour 
than before — they were obviously branchline trains incapable of 
doing more than forty miles an hour — but with their moving 
spirits. How had it happened, when, except for inarticulate 
shouts and cheers, he had never exchanged a word with them? 
Well, twice, on two successive days, the men had failed to re- 
turn his greeting. They must have known he was there, for he 
was always there; but inexplicably, when they converged, the 
men on the railway line and he on the water, they had been 
woundingly occupied with something else. Once the fireman 
had been feeding his engine, which he could quite well have 
done at another time ; once he was staring through the look-out 
hole, with an expression of great intentness, at a line which, 
even Timothy could see, was perfectly clear. And in the other 
engine the same indifference reigned; they had purposely 
looked away from him. They wouldn't play, they thought the 
joke childish, they had cut him out of their lives. The old buffer 
in the boat must be put in his place. 

There was only one thing to do, and Timothy did it. He made 
up his mind long beforehand. As it happened, next time the 
trains came by, the drivers waved with all their old abandon. 
But Timothy rowed on, his eyes fixed on the boat. A second 
time they tried again, rather languidly, as Timodiy could see 



238 THE BOAT 

under his raised eyebrows, but it was a definite salute. Again 
Timothy hardened his heart, and after that rebuff, they waved 
no more. The warning rattle of the trains, which had once filled 
him with agreeable expectation, was now the signal to guard his 
self-esteem against the memory of a slight; tension, a clenched 
mind, a furrowed brow, reigned in the boat, and in the cabs of 
the two engines who knows? perhaps the same emotions, 
perhaps (still more mortifyingly) entire forgetfulness. Timothy 
could feel the hostility mounting in him. He never reached the 
point of hoping the train would crash, but he did catch himself 
wishing that these extremely unpleasant, ill-mannered artisans 
might be late once too often, and be degraded to driving a goods 
train. 

In his new mood, freed of his incubus, and the self-regarding, 
self-esteeming emotions it engendered, Timothy felt that he 
must not lose a minute in repairing the breach with his old 
friends. If necessary he would stand up in the boat, at the risk of 
upsetting it ; and if pride still restrained them from answering, 
he would repeat the gesture every day for a fortnight. It should 
be his first act in the new manner, his first act to show that he 
asked nothing of humanity except its love. 

So absorbed was he in his vision of the coming reconciliation 
that he did not notice, as he crossed the bridge and began to 
lead his bicycle down the tow-path, the altered aspect of the 
river. Indeed, it was not unusual, when he arrived, to see no 
boats about; it had happened before, and the boatman had 
always kept one for him. He knew where it would be, but it 
was not there now. He put his bicycle into a shed which the 
boatman had placed at his disposal, and stepped on to the long 
broad shallow barge moored to the shore, that served the boat- 
man as a landing-stage. There was no one about. He knocked 
on the door of the cabin, and the man came out. His features 
were always drooping and despondent, but today he looked so 
woe-begone, so utterly insulated and enclosed by grief, that 
Timothy forgot his customary greeting, forgot the mutual 
inquiries and comments on the affairs of the day that were the 
recognised preliminaries to business, and baldly said; 

"Can I have a boat?" 

"Afraid not," the man replied. 



THE BOAT 239 

"Oh," said Timothy. He looked round. There were no boats 
on the river, none at the landing stage; it was a boatless world. 

''It's no good your looking," the man said heavily. "I've had 
to take them in." 

"Oh why?" said Timothy. 

"They were all being knocked to pieces, that's why," said the 
boatman. "People nowadays don't know how to use a boat. 
They use 'em same as you would those motor-cars that crash 
into each other at a fair. Only the cars are built to stand up to 
it and my boats aren't. Why, already this summer I've lost five 
boats simply through rough handling, and three pairs of oars. 
I can't replace them and I wouldn't if I could. It's murder, sheer 
murder." He looked at Timothy as accusingly as if he had been 
a ring-leader of the boat-killers. "And that's not the only 
reason," he added darkly. "There's another thing they do." 

"What's that?" 

"They take a boat, for an hour, and when the time's up I look 
round for the boat to let to another customer. But it isn't there. 
I wait, two hours, three hours, still the boat doesn't come in." 
He paused and looked hard at Timothy. "Mr. Casson, that boat 
never comes in. And why? Because they've left it by the bank 
somewhere, perhaps two or three miles away — upstream and 
downstream there's a five-mile stretch of river, as you know — 
left it and walked home across the fields." 

"Why do they do that?" asked Timothy. 

"Why, can't you see? To get off paying, of course, or because 
they're too tired to row back, or because they've damaged it so 
much they daren't." 

"What a shame," said Timothy. 

"A shame? It's worse than a shame," cried the boatman, his 
indignation beginning to choke his utterance. "It's a crime. 
People like that deserve to be shot. Why, last Sunday there were 
eight boats that didn't come in, and I had to spend five hours on 
Monday morning collecting 'em. A full ten miles I rowed, 
counting both ways, and once with five boats in tow, and one 
of them was shipping water so badly I had to keep stopping to 
bale it out. And I'm not so young as I was." 

He really did look years older, Timothy reflected. 

"'Tis all these Army and Air Force chaps," die boatman 



240 THE BOAT 

went on. 'They wouldn't do it if they was Uving in their own 
homes. But as soon as they get into a uniform, and have a 
number instead of a name — same as nobody can't trace 'em — 
they think they can do anything they Hke. And the good ones 
learn it from the bad ones." 

''I expect it's partly thoughtlessness," said Timothy. 

'Thoughtlessness!" echoed the boatman, scornfully. 
"Thoughtlessness ! They do a good bit of thinking if you ask me. 
If they didn't think, they'd bring the boat back in good order, 
same as you used to, sir, and same as most people did before the 
town was overrun by these chaps from nowhere. They think 
with the wrong side of their brains, that's their trouble. So I've 
done a bit of thinking, too, and I've decided to go out of 
business till the war's over. I've got to. My stock wouldn't 
last out another season, not at this rate." 

The man's depression seemed to put him beyond the reach of 
sympathy, and the river looked so inviting with the sun shining 
on it that Timothy felt almost as disconsolate as he did. He 
began to offer condolences, but at each word the man shook his 
head impatiently, like a retriever shaking himself after a swim. 

"I suppose you don't want to buy a boat?" Timothy wound 
up. There was no need to explain, for he had already discussed 
every point of his skiff with the boatman many times. 

''That I don't!" cried the man warmly and almost pleased, 
it seemed, after all he had suffered, to be able to inflict a small 
disappointment on someone else. "What should I want with 
another boat, I ask you? I wouldn't take your boat as a gift, a 
good boat like that, not even if things were different. Why, it 
wouldn't last a day, the way they handle boats on this river. 
And you won't find anyone else as will want to buy it," he went 
on with gloomy satisfaction. '"Tis the same everywhere, by all 
accounts, sheer murder to a boat to put it on the river, and will 
be till people come to their senses and know what's due to a 
boat. You hang on to your boat, sir, and perhaps you'll be able 
to use it when we've beaten Hitler." 

Suddenly Timothy had an idea. 

"Couldn't you let me keep my boat here, at your landing- 
stage, so that I can come over from Upton and use it?" 

"I've nothing against it," said the man. "But there'll be 



THE BOAT 241 

nobody here to keep watch, and by the time those old boys" — 
he waved his hand to indicate some youngsters who were 
standing on the towpath with their eyes turned inquiringly on 
the boathouse — ''have found it there won't be enough left of 
your boat to boil a tea-kettle." 

What a different conflagration from the one he had en- 
visaged ! Still murmuring sympathy Timothy proffered a parting 
present to the boatman. Mollified by the tip, the man accom- 
panied him a little way along the towpath. ''It's my belief," he 
said, "that people nowadays just live to do all the harm they 



Timothy rode back over the hills to Upton in a strange, 
neutral mood ; his sense of anti-climax so strong as to be almost 
a negation of living. Nothing that he saw held any meaning for 
him, he could not associate himself with the landscape or the 
way he was going ; even his fatigue seemed to belong to another 
person. Not a tremor of desire stirred in him; volition was 
stilled; he functioned as mechanically as the bicycle. He 
seemed to have no future beyond the crest of the next rise, no 
past more distant than the last one. Where do I go from here ? he 
asked himself. The hum of the turning wheels was his only 
answer. 

Dropping down into Upton, he felt its familiar atmosphere 
begin to enfold him with something of the feeling of home. 
Unconscious of the revolutions, the street fights, the changes 
of government that had taken place in his heart and mind since 
he set out, the village awaited him — the only field for his 
activities that now remained. The coronal of poplars pierced 
the sky like gigantic exclamation marks. As he drew nearer to 
his house, the comfort of the known had a steadying effect. 
He passed one or two of the villagers whom he knew by sight, 
and their nods and smiles of recognition cheered him. Now he 
was overtaking two ladies. One had bare legs, the other, who 
was pushing a pram, wore trousers. The foreigners, the out- 
landers,were still only on the fringe of Timothy's acquaintance; 
with some he was just on bowing terms, and he was wondering 
how definite a salute he should accord to these, when the 



242 THE BOAT 

disengaged lady on the left, the fair one, whose hair had been 
catching the sun, but whose legs were surprisingly white, 
heard the sound of his bicycle and turned. She smiled and 
moved directly into his path, so that Timothy perforce had to 
dismount. 

''Why it's you!" exclaimed Miss Cross. 

Clumsily Timothy tried to manoeuvre his machine so as to be 
free to shake hands with her. She watched his operations with 
amusement, but when, after barking his ankles on the pedals, 
he had reduced the refractory bicycle to obedience, and was 
stretching out his hand, she made a tiny motion of withdrawal 
and absently raised her hand to smooth her hair. 

Timothy's arm dropped to his side. 

**I never expected to find you here," she said. 

*'Why not?" asked Timothy. 

"I thought the fishmongers would have frightened you 
away." 

''Oh no, I'm still here." 

"And boating?" 

Timothy smiled. "No. I've missed the boat." 

"I knew it," exclaimed Miss Cross. "I knew you wouldn't 
do anything if I went away. I suppose you've taken to fishing?" 

"No." 

"Are you doing war-work?" 

"No." 

"Are you writing your articles?" 

"No." 

"Good God, what do you do?" 

"Nothing." 

"Nothing? Hold me, Frances, I think I'm going to faint. An 
able-bodied man, and he does nothing. Don't you even go to the 
local?" 

"No." 

"I see it was high time I came back," said Miss Cross. "Will 
you promise me to be there this evening without fail?" 

"Yes, if you will," Timothy said. 

"Nine o'clock, then. You know Frances, don't you? Well, 
then, shake hands with her." 

Timothy and Frances shook hands with the reserved and 



THE BOAT 243 

slightly guilty air of people who should have performed this 
ceremony long ago, but for one reason or another have not 
thought it worth while. 

**I want you two to be buddies," said Miss Cross. ''She's a 
girl in a thousand, much nicer than I am." 

She may be nicer, Timothy thought, but she isn't half as 
pretty. 

"I haven't got an engagement for this evening, have I?" 
Miss Cross suddenly asked her friend. 

Timothy braced himself to bear a disappointment. 

"I don't think so, but you don't tell me all your dates," 
Frances said. 

Miss Cross turned to Timothy. 

''What should you do if I didn't turn up?" 

"I should be heart-broken." 

"Very well then, I will. But only on one condition." 

"What is that?" 

"I'll give you three guesses." 

For a long time Timothy's life had been so barren of alter- 
natives, which are the prerogative of the free-minded, that he 
had quite lost the habit of looking for them. He seemed fated 
to do one thing, and that the wrong thing. No doubt Miss 
Cross's life was fertile in acts of choice. He tried to think of 
three possible solutions to her problem. 

"That you pay for the drinks?" he ventured, archly. 

"Not a very gentlemanly remark. I took it for granted you 
would," she answered, almost without a smile. 

Timothy thought again. 

"That I put on a black tie?" 

"What a good idea. I hadn't thought of that. But you must, 
though ... I won't come if you don't. But it's not the real 
condition." 

Moth-like, Timothy's mind fluttered round the most perilous 
and delicate suggestions. He looked at Frances, in case he should 
see in her expression some hint of how far he might go. But she 
was looking as inscrutable as only a woman knows how to. 

"That I behave myself properly," he said at length. 

"I'll see to that," she said. "Now shall I tell you what the 
condition is?" 



244 THE BOAT 

*Tlease." 

"You won't like it." 

"I'm always doing things I don't like." 

"You won't like doing this." 

"What is it?" 

"You must promise to take me with you in the boat." 

Timothy stared at her in silence. The setting sun spilt orange 
over the red-faced houses, it gleamed on their windows like 
fire; but from his mind the radiance faded, and the chill of 
twilight stole through all its corridors. 

"Perhaps . . . sometime . . ." he mumbled. 

"No, not sometime, tomorrow." 

"Will you really not come unless I promise?" 

"No." 

"Then," said Timothy slowly, "I'm afraid we shan't meet." 
Not from rudeness, but from a kind of hopeless preoccupation 
with the unending pattern of his disappointment, he mounted 
his bicycle and rode off without a word. Miss Cross began to 
laugh, and her laughter followed him down the street. The 
passers-by looked round. 

"Timothy!" 

It was so long since he had heard his Christian name that he 
hardly recognised it and she had to call him twice. 

"Timothy!" 

He turned round slowly and rode back. The two women were 
standing where he had left them, and Miss Cross had silenced 
her laughter with a bewitching smile. 

"Darling, you looked so funny riding off like that. Were 
you angry with me?" 

"Of course not," muttered Timothy. 

"Darling, I believe you were. Do you know, the back of your 
neck is quite red? You are an old silly. Of course I'll come, and 
you can go and drown yourself in your boat for all I care." 

Her smile turned the words into a blessing, but Timothy 
scarcely noticed what she said, so bewildered was he by the 
unlooked for reversal of his fortunes and the call to rejoice 
instead of weep. On the way back he could not help grinning 
inanely at everyone he met, and even a sharp nod from Captain 
Sturrock, who was turning into the drive of The Old Stables 



THE BOAT 245 

did not damp his spirits. ''Now I know which side I'm on," he 
thought, but there was no hostiUty in his mind, only the sweet 
sense of unquestioning loyalty to another person. Back in his 
house he banged about, as if the enlargement of his personality 
demanded an outlet in increased noise. He sang in his bath and 
afterwards, in an ecstasy of opening and shutting drawers, he 
began to hunt for the dress clothes he had not worn since he 
left Italy, nearly nine months ago. Bang, bang, here was his 
black tie, discreet symbol of a festive occasion; but would he 
still remember how to tie it? Here was his waistcoat; would it 
fit? Here were his trousers, but oh horrors! What was this rash 
that had broken out on their sleek sides, these disfiguring 
streaks and perforations in the soft, even nap? He took the 
garments to the window. . . . Yes, the moth had got into 
them; while civilisation tottered and crashed, the hateful insect 
had seized its opportunity. As Litvinov had said, peace was in- 
divisible ; and the rent in the fabric of Europe had its humble 
counterpart in Timothy's dress-suit. 

Full of misgiving Timothy slipped the trousers on, challenged 
the looking-glass and tried to give himself the admiring smile 
that even the least vain keep for such occasions. He recollected 
he was going to a bar. At a bar, one stood. If he did not bend, 
or stretch, or sit, or lie, if he turned away from rather than 
towards a fellow-reveller, if he lurked in a shady corner instead 
of coming out into the open, if he could remember to take 
short steps instead of long ones, if he could keep himself from 
sliding or stumbling or falling, if he could remain rigidly still 
and inflexibly upright, he would still present, to an uncritical 
eye (not Magda Vivien's!) the appearance of a pre-war gentle- 
man going out to keep an engagement with a pre-war lady. 

He chattered all the way through dinner, and though it was 
to Chloe rather than to Effie that he talked, he found her 
concerns of absorbing interest. She could not fail to be im- 
pressed by his animation, and afterwards in the kitchen, when 
they heard the front door slam 'fit to shake the house,' she 
remarked to Beatrice: 

"I don't know what's happened to Mr. Casson. He's become 
quite cheerful all of a sudden. And all dressed up, too ! He must 
have had a birthday." 



246 THE BOAT 



CHAPTER XVI 

It was some time before Timothy would acknowledge, even to 
himself, the strength of his attachment to Miss Cross. He tried 
to persuade himself that the eccentricities of his behaviour had 
nothing to do with her. If he went out into the village street in 
the middle of the morning, and lit a cigarette, and walked up 
and down studying the cottage gardens, it was because he 
wanted to do this, not because, a few days ago at much the 
same hour, he had run into Vera there, and fondly imagined 
that her movements were guided by a time-table. 

Timothy's day was punctuated by such sorties, all of which 
he believed spontaneous, but all of which were really inspired 
by the desire to meet Miss Cross. His procedure was always 
the same: the cigarette, the uninterested air, the starting and 
stopping, the sudden absorption in the sky. This last occupa- 
tion was plausible enough, for Upton was a hive of low-flying 
aircraft. They swooped down, cutting short conversation, 
obliterating thought. Besides, August was well advanced, and 
the village had seen the silver gleam of many a daylight bomber, 
and at night had heard the heavy grunt and watched the 
reddened sky-line. To those he met when off on these patrols 
(how rarely they turned out to be Miss Cross!) he was often 
over-effusive, holding them in conversation as if it was they 
whom he had really come to see ; and if they happened to be 
friends of hers (Timothy now numbered most of the 'foreigners' 
among his acquaintance) he tried extra hard to make himself 
agreeable, feeling that by being civil to them he was somehow 
recommending himself to her. He never mentioned her to them, 
but if they mentioned her to him it almost counted as a meeting, 
so sweetly did her name sound on their lips. Indeed, he 
treasured every little word they said about her, for it helped to 
build up an image with which his thoughts could afterwards 
make free. 

But he seldom, at this time, dropped in at the Fisherman's 
Arms, which was the most likely place to meet her; partly from 



THE BOAT 247 

shyness of the faces turning at his entry, partly because it was, 
well — one thing to saunter down the street, looking here and 
there, and another to sidle into the pub, with his purpose 
shining in his eyes. When he met her there it was generally by 
appointment. Timothy felt there was much virtue in an 
appointment; it betokened regularity and order and was some- 
thing of which his guardian would have approved. 

Actually his mind was in chaos, its furniture turned upside 
down, its lighting lurid and fitful, its atmosphere tingling as 
though with an electrical discharge. It was no place to live in — 
that was one reason why he was so often out of doors. 

To his surprise he did not find her difficult to talk to, for he 
spoke to draw her out, to explore her mind, to hear what she 
would say; it didn't much matter what she said, the important 
thing was that she said it, and to him. He did not always like 
what she said at the moment when she said it; but a second 
later he had invented a score of reasons for finding it com- 
mendable. Her flattery was sometimes crude, her conversation 
bristled with booby-traps; her callousness sometimes startled 
him ; but all these could be turned to favour and to prettiness 
by one simple trick of mental alchemy; she was nearer to 
nature than he was. By living a sheltered life among books and 
pictures, by adopting the detached, judicial attitude of a sight- 
seer, he had interposed a wall of cEsthetic judgment between 
him and experience. This barrier she was breaking down, for 
she was the raw material of art, the essential thing from which 
artists drew their inspiration; talking to her, he was refreshed at 
the original fount. He had been told that his work was too 
literary, that it was bleached by irony and drained of nature ; 
well, the colour would now be restored, the nature put back; 
for she was a child of nature and unconsciously illustrated its 
workings. 

Thus he silenced the questionings of his critical faculty', if 
ever it seemed suspicious of her. But it seldom did, for the 
emotions control the mind much more easily than the mind 
controls the emotions, and Timothy was only too glad to feel 
the current of his being running one way. Gradually, as it 
seemed to him, but rapidly by the reckoning of days and nights, 
the milestones on his way to her were passed. It had seemed 



248 THE BOAT 

dashing to meet her at the Fisherman's Arms; soon it became 
the usual, though never taken-for-granted climax of his day ; it 
had seemed daring to enter The Nook, and wait on the boldly- 
striped divan side by side with dolls with dangling limbs and 
decadent faces, while Vera and Frances put the children to bed. 
Not without set'backs these goals were won; for sometimes 
Vera would fail him at the pub, and he would sit, with one eye 
on the door, draining his tankard and trying to hide his dis- 
appointment from the watchful eyes around him. And some- 
times when he escorted her to her home, expectation tightening 
at every step, she would leave him on the very threshold, saying 
she had things to do: ''So sorry, darling, I must throw you 
out," when she hadn't even let him in. 

He could count on his love for her, though not on her. But 
his love throve on these set-backs which, as he seldom really 
believed in her excuses, he would put down to some deficiency 
in himself, some clumsiness of approach, some tactical error; 
he must be as various, he told himself, as she was capricious; 
he must discover, at the eleventh hour, the right word to say, 
the right look to give, to make her want him. He tried to snap- 
shot himself at the moment of admittance so that he could be 
the same another time, and repeat his success. ''But it's Frances 
I really want to see, not you," or something in that vein, had 
proved an Open Sesame more than once. 

But she would not even promise to visit him at the Old 
Rectory. "No, I couldn't, what would they take me for?" she 
said. Timothy, when he first heard this felt the thrill of pride in 
her refusal to cheapen herself that any man might feel. But 
when he got home to the empty chair in which so confidently 
he had seen her sitting, he was overwhelmed with disappoint- 
ment. Vacancy invaded him, darkening his mind like a barren 
twilight; nothing that had gone before, none of the painful 
progress he had made, seemed to count beside this last rebuff; 
and when he met her in their accustomed haunts the magic and 
the thrill had gone, simply because they were not his house. 
His longing to see her was as strong as ever but the actual 
encounters brought him little delight and an uneasy sense of 
frustration ; she was like an object of virtue that the collector 
longs to possess, and comes back time after time to look at, 



THE BOAT 249 

tormented because the owner will not part with it and must not 
be asked again. 

One evening, however, when he had resigned himself to the 
static nature of their friendship she suddenly said, *'Why have 
I never seen the inside of your house?" 

Timothy could not answer; his heart beat in his throat and 
he looked at her inquiringly. 

''When will you come?" he muttered. 

She laughed and said, ''Darling, you always want to make an 
engagement. Do you never do anything without putting it 
down in your diary first?" 

"It's to have it to look forward to," said Timothy. 

"Well, what day is it today?" 

Timothy tried to remember ; he had been losing count of the 
days. "August the seventeenth, I think." 

"Well, shall we say December the seventeenth? That will 
give you plenty of time to look forward." 

Timothy's face fell. "Oh, that's too far ahead." 

"October the seventeenth?" 

Timothy answered more lightly than he felt, "But I might 
be dead then." 

She smiled. "Well, so might I. You don't seem to think 
of me." 

"I think of you all the time," said Timothy. 

"I don't feel flattered," she said moodily. "You'd rather think 
of me than be with me. What about September the seventeenth? 
Have you the book handy?" 

Timothy brought out his diary and opened it. Day followed 
day, week followed week, great empty tracts of time, to be got 
over somehow. September now seemed much further off than 
December had, a moment since. 

"Come on, put it down," she said, covering the day with a 
scarlet finger-nail. "V. at the O.R. or whatever code you use." 

Her voice was impatient, but Timothy still hesitated ; writing 
down a date seemed final to him; by claiming her for the 
seventeenth of September he forfeited all hope of getting her 
before. 

"What's the matter?" she said. "I don't believe you want me 
at all. It was just a ruse to put me off, this diary business." 



250 THE BOAT 

Timothy could not speak; he took the book from her and 
slowly turned the pages. ''Look how blank they are," he said. 
"Not a single engagement." 

Bending her head until it almost touched his shoulder she 
watched the procession of dateless days. ''What's this day?" 
she asked, suddenly, her finger pouncing. 

"That? Oh, that's today, August the seventeenth." 

"Well, what's wrong with August the seventeenth?" 

"But it's today," repeated Timothy. "You don't mean — ?" 

"Of course I do. I only said the other, because it gave you 
more time to look forward." 

Timothy stared. Why had he been so foolish? Yet even then, 
in the full flood of his relief and joy, he couldn't quite abandon 
himself to the current ; his mind searched wildly for some cable 
to tether him to the world he knew. They were standing in the 
village street, en route for The Nook. 

"But won't Frances be expecting us?" he said. "Won't she 
wonder what's happened?" The words sounded silly as soon 
as he had uttered them and he looked at Vera apprehensively ; 
she had a sharp tongue and she had often told him that she had 
no patience with his sheep-dog moods. But unexpectedly she 
was all honey. 

"Don't worry, darling," she told him; "I warned her that I 
might be a bit late." 

So she was sitting in his chair after all; her face broke the 
curve of its back just where he thought it would, and her pale 
hair against the olive^green upholstery held shadows in its 
depths that were almost green too. On the octagonal mother-of' 
pearl table lay her handbag, just as he had pictured it; Miss 
Chadwick's drawing-room was taking the impress of its new 
visitor. But how unwillingly ! He felt he had to fight with many 
shadows for her right to be there, and some of them were in 
himself; some could only be appeased by presents, extensions 
of himself that, in her possession, were like passports to the 
house's favour. Against these gifts she fought, she was no gold- 
digger, she said; but presently another handbag lay on the 
nacreous table, and then another. And at last, after infinite 
persuasions, and a day of bitter estrangement, a jewel, a tiny 
diamond clasp, sparkled on her shoulder. 



THE BOAT 251 

Thus the house came to know her — the hall, the drawing- 
room, and the dining-room; and in the dead season when she 
wasn't there, which was after all the greater part of every day, 
Timothy could imagine she was, for he knew how those places 
looked when lighted by her presence. They were transformed 
by it as much as he was; they belonged to his conception of 
her, just as she answered more readily to the call of his imagina- 
tion when she carried with her something he had given her; 
something that had a place on her dressing-table or in her chest 
of-drawers, that greeted her familiarly in the morning and 
parted from her last thing at night. He could find it in him to 
be jealous of these objects which were so much more intimate 
with her than he was, which could return the pressure of her 
hand for hours together, whereas he must be content with 
minutes; which could spend the whole day on her shoulder, 
while he — 

But as he went upstairs and stepped outside the circle of her 
ambience, the vision of her faded ; she was a ghost that haunted 
the ground floor, and was bound by the conventions of a 
common caller, her dearness overlaid and distanced by the 
ceremony with which he must approach it. In rooms where she 
had not been, how could he call her his? — and she would not, 
would not even pretend an interest in what lay above the level 
ground of their companionship. This companionship had 
become for Timothy as humdrum and lacking in allure as had 
his former meetings with her at the inn and in The Nook; his 
imagination no longer kindled at the thought of them, they were 
like hard-won peaks which the mountaineer no longer notices, 
so far are they below him. 

**But what do you want to show me, darling?" she once 
asked. ''Is it your toothbrush and your face towel? — because 
I can imagine those. Or is it some monster that you keep hidden 
in a cupboard? You've seen me tidy my hair and make my face 
up; are you jealous of the smallest, tiniest little things I do to 
myself?" 

Timothy protested that he wasn't. "But I shall like my room 
better if you've been in it," he said. 

"But, darling, it's not a show place," she reminded him, 
"and besides, what would tlie servants say?" 



252 THE BOAT 

What indeed? At one time Timothy would have minded 
very much what they said, but since the return of Miss Cross his 
relationship with the staff of the Old Rectory had become 
almost dreamlike. Beatrice and Efiie were hardly more than 
names; they slipped in and out of his consciousness without 
leaving a trace of their passage. He talked to them, perhaps 
more easily and naturally than before; but he no longer tried 
to mix his personality with theirs or find a highest common 
factor for their intercourse. Even with Wimbush his exchanges 
were perfunctory; he could not remember afterwards what 
either of them had said. His household had receded with the 
rest of the world from the centre of reality and were dimly 
visible on the confines of his mind. 

Besides, the world itself was unrecognisable. Bombs were 
raining down on London. Even the direction of men's eyesight 
was changed. It was turned upwards; like miniature search' 
lights their tired eyes swept the zenith. ''Take shelter! Take 
shelter!" was the cry. All but the bravest people felt in 
jeopardy; like rabbits they had at the backs of their minds 
a place where they believed they would be safest. At the Old 
Rectory it was under the stairs; here he and Effie and Beatrice 
would foregather and drink tea and while away the weary 
minutes between "alert" and *'all clear" with desultory, mean- 
ingless conversation that was like the very language of boredom, 
for it expressed nothing except their desire to hide their fears. 
We are all ostriches with our heads in the sand, thought 
Timothy, building shelters round our bodies and our minds to 
keep out the reality of danger, living in caves like troglodytes. 
Everyone is busy taking cover; they look up or down, no one 
looks round or over ; each and all we are enclosed and perfect 
in our separateness. Who will mind, who will even notice, in the 
middle of a world war, if I take Vera Cross upstairs and show 
her the appointments? 

So he argued, but Vera only smiled at him and never gave 
so much as a glance to the climbing staircase, though sometimes, 
when he was seeing her off, he would mount the first step, lay 
his hand on the banister and from this eminence, with head 
half turned and swinging foot, detain her in what he fondly 
imagined was bedtime conversation. 



THE BOAT 253 

In vain. Muffled, muted and ingrowing his life went on, 
describing a descending spiral of ever-lessening diameter, 
shedding the accretions of experience and thought and culture 
with which the soul seeks to protect itself against the inexorable 
egotism of the flesh, until his whole being was emaciated and 
his shrunken consciousness had lost all substance and only 
existed in the spark that fed it. Nor had he any outlook or 
mental landscape other than the series of receding mirrors that 
showed him his desire. 

But above all this his being hovered, lonely in its new 
element, like a kite that floats above the hand that holds it to the 
earth; and if his thoughts were impoverished his sense of the 
mere act of living had never been so keen. Never had the 
sensations of hunger and thirst, energy and weariness, heat 
and cold, and his awareness of their contrasts, been so sharp 
and pure as now. His sensations seemed far more real than his 
discarded thoughts and moreover he could share them with 
Vera, they brought him nearer to her. If he felt tired, so perhaps 
did she, and if she said she did, he had the thrill of approxima- 
tion to her, a kindling sense of union, as though the same skin 
clothed them both. He would ring her up to tell her what he 
was feeling, and if she felt the same it brought a closer sense of 
contact than any identity of views. What matter if such inter- 
course sometimes involved a little cheating, a few misrepresen- 
tations before harmony was reached? 

*'I had a slight headache this afternoon." 

''So had I." 

'Tm so sorry. When did yours come on?" 

''About half-past three." 

"How extraordinary. So did mine." Actually Timothy's 
headache had arrived somewhat later in the day, but at any rate 
the two visitations must have overlapped, and by doing so 
brought the lovers together in a way that no clean bill of 
health, no radiant expanse of featureless well-being, could 
ever do. 

United by a headache ! But they were not united ; they were 
separated by the height of a staircase. 

One chilly evening, for the year had now expended its 
seemingly exhaustless store of warmth, she drew the silver tox 



254 THE BOAT 

fur round her and said, ''You were quite right, darling, I was 
angry at the time but what a comfort it is. And you ought to 
have one, too, wandering about the cold passages in this 
rambling old house." 

''Why," said Timothy, "what makes you think they're 
cold?" 

"But, darling, they must be! My commonsense tells me so. 
It was arctic in the hall; what must it be like upstairs?" 

"Ah, that's a secret!" said Timothy. 

"Don't think I want to pry or to be tiresomely maternal, but 
I should like to know what you wear when you go from your 
bedroom down the freezing passage into your bath-tub piled 
with ice-bergs?" 

"What do I wear? Why, my dressing-gown, of course." 

"Darling, I supposed you did, but what sort of dressing- 
gown?" 

"Oh, a brown hairy one." 

"But doesn't it tickle dreadfully? Do you wear it next to your 
s/cin?" 

"Well, sometimes I have my pyjamas underneath." 

"What are they made of? I have to ask, you see you never 
tell me anything,''^ 

"Artificial silk. I could show you — " 

"No, no, just tell me. I only want to be sure that you are 
warm. And what do you wear on your feet?" 

"Oh, just some ordinary bedroom slippers." 

"Ordinary? What colour are they? You see, you make me 
drag things out of you." 

"Oh, just blue." 

"Blue, how dull. Wouldn't you like me to give you some 
really nice ones?" 

"I should, but you mustn't bother." 

"Bother? What an awful word to use. How would you like 
it if I told you not to bother?" 

"I suppose I might feel hurt," admitted Timothy. 

"Darling, I should think so. You speak to me as if I was a 
lost umbrella. I should have to know the size, of course." 

Timothy told her. 

"But that's such an extraordinary size. No shop would stock 



THE BOAT 255 

it. Have you very peculiar feet?" 

Rather self-consciously, Timothy made his foot revolve on 
the pivot of his instep. Vera watched him with admiration. 

''Think of being able to do that! You must be double- 
jointed." 

''Oh, I don't think so." 

"Take your slipper off and let me look." 

Timothy obeyed. 

"Darling, I don't like your socks. They are the kind a clergy- 
man might wear. I believe they were a present from Mrs. 
Purbright." 

"Mrs. Purbright doesn't give me presents." 

"She ought to, if she's as rich as people say. Isn't that a tiny 
little hole?" 

"I'm afraid it is." 

"Is your skin really that colour?" 

Timothy blushed. "I suppose so." 

"Darling, it's so much paler than your face. Please take your 
sock off, I must just see." 

Timothy's embarrassment increased but a feeling of excite- 
ment mingled with it. He took the sock off. Inside out, it at once 
gave the room an air of squalor, and he slipped it in his pocket. 

Vera gazed in ecstasy at his bare foot. 

"But you have such wonderfully clean feet! Put it here a 
moment." 

She dug a little nest for it on her lap. 

"But I shall fall over!" said Timothy, getting up and coming 
towards her. 

"Not if you hold on to the chair. There. I love your little toe, 
it's too sweet." 

"Oh, but it's such a long way away from me." 

"Can you kiss it? Try." 

Timothy leaned forward until his thinning hair mingled with 
hers. "I'd much rather you did," he murmured. 

"Darling, you do expect a lot." 

But all the same she bent down and brushed his toe with her 
lips. "It's like sending a telegram. Have you got the message 
yet?" she asked anxiously, turning her eyes up to his. 

"I'm just beginning to." 



256 THE BOAT 

She smiled and put his foot down gently on the floor. 

''Look, we mustn't waste time. Get a bit of paper and a pencil 
and I'll draw your foot so that there shan't be any mistake about 
the size." 

Timothy brought her a sheet of foolscap. 

''Shall you draw the kiss?" 

"I might put a tiny little cross, but it won't take up any room. 
They'll think it's a corn. Now press your foot down flat." 

Timothy wriggled as the pencil began to press against the 
tender ticklish hollow of his instep. 

"Darling, stand stilll I might be a blacksmith shoeing you, 
the way you flinch!" 

At last it was over. Vera surveyed the drawing critically. 

"They'll never believe it, but it's true," she said. Folding 
up the paper, she put it into her bag. 

Timothy, deflated, began to put on his sock, shivering 
slightly as he did so. Vera laughed. 

"Darling, you must be pretending. You can't really be 
cold! It was only your foot. Think if you'd been posing for 
me in the nude!" 

Timothy thought of it and said hastily, "What colour will 
the slippers be?" 

Vera knit her brows. It was a gesture most unusual with her, 
indeed he did not remember ever to have seen her forehead 
furrowed. 

"It depends on what they've got to go with. Your dressing- 
gown's brown, you say." 

"Yes." 

"And your pyjamas?" 

"Well, I've several pairs, as a matter of fact." 

"How extravagant you are. Which do you like best?" 

"Well, there are some flame-coloured ones — " Timiothy 
felt a fool. 

"How dashing!" Vera pondered. "Flame-colour and brown 
could go together. May I see your slumber-wear, or is it too 
personal?" 

Timothy stood up. 

"I'll go and fetch it," he said. 

"Oh, but isn't that a bother?" 



THE BOAT 257 

''You mustn't use that word," Timothy warned her. ''They're 
only just upstairs." 

"Is that far?" 

"Only a few steps." 

Vera looked up at him. 

"Perhaps I ought to go with you. Clothes look so different 
in the hand." 

Suddenly everything in the room seemed brighter and more 
distinct to Timothy, as though the electric light had gained in 
power. But he couldn't bear to risk another rebuff. 

"I can quite well bring them down," he said, evenly. 

Vera gave him her sad smile. "But, darling, I think I'll come 
up. I could tell so much better if you just tried them on." 

Timothy's bliss was of brief duration, for four days later Miss 
Cross left Upton. She could not tell him with certainty where 
she would be, or when she would be back; but she gave him an 
address in Curzon Street from which letters would be 
forwarded. 

She begged him not to come: to London; London was being 
bombed and she hoped to get away from it. Let them make the 
most of their time together. 

This they did; even with the shadow of separation hanging 
over him, they were the happiest days Timothy had ever 
known, for they were days in which he was lost to every con^ 
sideration except his love. The third evening in the new era 
came, and they parted, for Vera was leaving at dawn, she said, 
and she did not encourage him to see her off. "Do you know, 
I'm shy of being seen with you," she told him. Timothy was 
still enveloped in the sweet sense of her yielding; she had 
withheld nothing from him, and so uplifted was his heart with 
gratitude that the bitterness of impending loss could scarcely 
force an entrance. She was the symbol of his joy, and his joy 
would represent her, he felt, even when she was not there. 
But all the same the concourse of feeUngs was, for a man of his 
age and untried temper, almost too tumultuous to be borne; 
dimly he descried himself struggling in gigantic, rainbow- 
tinted seas, with no knowledge of how to act, or experience of 
how to feel; disciplined and rule-ridden as his nature was, he 



258 THE BOAT 

parted from her speechless and in tears. 

What then was his astonishment to hear her voice on the 
telephone the next morning saying that she had had to put off 
her departure for twenty-four hours ; she had things to do which 
would occupy her until the evening but she would be free to 
dine with him. 

Timothy passed the day in a fever of expectation. He was 
to see her again ! The reprieve had brought him an entirely new 
crop of sensations, a jubilation so intense that it could not be 
contained in minutes but seemed to range backwards and for- 
wards over his whole life-time, past, present and to come. He 
even felt he must have done something to deserve so signal a 
blessing, and searched his recent behaviour for some act of 
surpassing merit, without however finding one. 

The day dragged on. In the village street people crept about 
like flies, like beetles; all the energy seemed to have gone out 
of the world. He went for a long walk and tried by tiring himself 
to anaesthetize his sense of time. But it would not work, for 
Time will only hurry for those who accept the small change 
that it offers; for them it moves, and not for those who demand 
from it a capital sum. 

Timothy had rehearsed their meeting a hundred times before 
she came, but he was unprepared for the film of sadness, slight 
but unmistakable, which blurred her presence and touched 
with languor and a pensive lack of zest every little thing she did. 
His joy at seeing her made him for a time immune to her 
mood of melancholy ; he felt that it would pass if he ignored it. 
But when, after dinner, the cloud was still there he plucked up 
courage to ask if anything was wrong. 

At first she put him off: there was nothing the matter; she 
was only a little sad at leaving him. Couldn't he understand 
that? How selfish I have been, thought Timothy: what was a 
victory to me, a lustreless, middle-aged bachelor, may well seem 
a defeat to her, the young and lovely Vera. I have the spur of 
satisfied vanity to help me over the first few hours of this 
separation; but what has she? Only the inevitable reaction from 
generosity, the unexhilarating sense of having yielded to pity 
and importunity. I can strut and preen myself, while she! He 
felt very humble, and disgusted with himself that in her presence 



THE BOAT 259 

he could not realize what her absence would mean. But it could 
not be just his inadequacy as a lover that had wrought this 
change in her. 

**I am sure you have something on your mind," he said. 
'Tlease tell me — I shall be so unhappy if you don't." 

"I'm afraid you will be unhappy if I do," she answered; and 
then it came out how, that very evening, Frances had been 
sitting in the Fisherman's Arms — "I wasn't there" — and had 
overheard two of those men, the fishing snobs, saying something 
about her, Vera, and Timothy. *'I won't tell you what it was, 
darling, because words stick and I don't want you to be 
haunted by it — but it was so disagreeable. Promise me you 
won't ask Frances." 

Timothy promised, adding, "I didn't think they came now." 

"Darling, don't you believe me? And promise me one other 
thing, you won't want to, but it's only this, that whatever 
happens, you won't make friends with any of them, will you? 
I could never come here again if you did — you'd understand 
why, if you knew what they'd said." 

Timothy felt so sick with hatred of the fishermen that he 
could hardly speak; but at last he got the promise out. 

"Oh, darling, you look so funny when you're angry. You 
look as if you might murder them." 

"Well, I should like to," said Timothy. 

"Please don't do that, but if you get a chance of putting 
a little gaff in their gills, you will, won't you? So many people 
would be pleased, as well as me." 

Fervently Timothy promised that he would. 

Even as he spoke he saw the shadow lifting from her brow 
and her movements regain their life and confidence. 

"It'll be another secret for us to share," she said. "And 
now for the last one. Can you guess what it is?" 

Timothy looked completely mystified. 

"Why do you suppose I stayed an extra day?" 

Timothy said he thought it was on business. 

"It was, your business." And opening the capacious shop- 
ping-bag Timothy had given her, she took out the flame- 
coloured slippers. When they had been duly admired and 
exclaimed over, "Shall I put them on now?" asked Timothy, 



260 ' THE BOAT 

eagerly kicking off his pumps, for he was wearing his dress suit. 
All at once her melancholy returned. 
"No, darling, not tonight. Wear them when I'm gone." 
Timothy could not believe it. It was as though someone else 

had spoken. 

''Oh, but I wanted you to ... to see me in them." 

''Another time, darling, when I come back." 

Timothy was silent. He could not look at her. 

"Is it . . . because of them?" he asked, at length. 

"I don't know, darling, but I think it is. You see, they were 

so very rude about us." 



THE BOAT 261 



CHAPTER XVII 

The second desolating morning dawned, but this time it brought 
no reprieve. It did, however, bring the comfort of a bulging 
envelope from Tyro, and at this reminder of his discarded life 
Timothy stared, curious yet fearful to know what, after his 
long absence from it, the world would have to say to him. But 
Tyro was not the world; he was perhaps Timothy's most 
intimate friend; and whatever might be Timothy's mood of the 
moment his mind told him that Tyro was an anchor. 
*'My Dear Timothy," he read, 

*'So the Battle of Britain is on at last! I won't bore you with 
bomb'Stories or tell you how near the nearest came to hitting 
me — you will have found plenty of people to tell you that — ■ 
it is extraordinary how every man woman and child feels that 
they are the object of the enemy's special malevolence, and the 
world has somehow been delivered from destruction because 
they have escaped. I should have less patience with them if I did 
not feel the same myself — if I did not feel, when the swish that 
paralyses and the dull thud that bruises one's mind, is over, 
that here I still am, and while I am here there is still someone to 
face the music and carry the war on against Hitler. 

''In your last letter you said, 'I am beginning to agree with 
you that the human race is probably innately quarrelsome' — 
and you told me something about the dissensions in your house- 
hold, which you evidently regard as a microcosm. Well, dear 
Timothy, without offering any opinion as to that — for I have no 
household — I really think you were a little mistaken and 
perhaps lacking in the spirit of true friendship, to back me up in 
such a preposterous sentiment. I have always spoken frankly 
to you and I rely on you to do the same with me. If I did say 
something of the kind — and I'm sure I did, or you wouldn't 
say so — it was because, being a foreigner and belonging, in a 
manner of speaking, to three nationalities all of which have 
had grievances against England in the past — the remote past — I 
didn't realize clearly the part England is playing in this struggle 



262 THE BOAT 

for liberty; and I thought — I must have thought since you say 
so — that there were faults on all sides. And of course there are; 
none of us is perfect ; but that does not prevent one side being 
largely right, and the other largely wrong. Justice is above such 
small considerations. After a motor accident it is not the man of 
comparatively blameless life, but the man who has driven his 
car with care who wins his case. In my search for a simplification 
which would fit the circumstances I may have said we were all 
to blame ; and having suffered in my ancestors from England's 
expansionist policy (a policy which I see now has brought 
untold blessings to the world) I may have been blind to her 
magnificent record in the present struggle — I believe I was. 

"But you, Timothy, have no such excuse. You are an 
Englishman, as I only wish I was; and I frankly cannot under- 
stand those passages in your letter which wear a war-weary, 
almost a defeatist air. Even if England has been guilty in the 
past of acts of aggression, as you seem to suggest, and even if 
human beings are innately quarrelsome (which I take leave to 
doubt), it does not affect the incidence of right and wrong, in 
the present issue. Would you say that because all men are 
sinners that therefore the church, which is composed of sinners, 
is, vis-a-vis say, the Camorra or the Ku Klux Klan, an immoral 
institution? Right and wrong cannot be measured by sums of 
addition, intended to calculate the private virtues of individuals 
throughout the world ; it is the general perfume that rises from 
their thoughts and acts; and if you take a sniff at the Nazi 
cauldron and then at the English alembic surely you can be in no 
doubt as to which should be preserved? 

"And in saying this I leave out all their known, documented 
record, unparalleled in history for cruelty, treachery, and 
breach of faith — yes, and of combining these into the credo of 
a religion that will forever debase and dehumanize mankind. 

"But all these are just platitudes, mere statements of fact, 
scratchings of pen on paper in a smelly, stuffy room (all the 
same, an ante-chamber of liberty!) with the fag-end of my mind, 
scraped bare by sleepless nights. You'll find them more con- 
vincingly expressed in any newspaper. But what grieves me is 
that you shouldn't feel the strength and majesty of the moment, 
the chance it gives one (though I hate to bring myself into it) 



THE BOAT 263 

of living beyond oneself and of meeting other human beings on 
the plane of selflessness. You write of your irritations and sore 
places, you complain of your household, you say your neigh- 
bours are unfair to you ; but what do you expect, if you insist 
on standing aside and letting others do the work ? I was amused 
by your account of the Home Guard dinner and laughed heartily 
over your attempt to dispose of your boat — though evidently 
you didn't. You took it all so seriously I wondered what had 
happened to your famous sense of humour. The war does odd 
things to people; nearly everyone I know is immieasurably the 
better for it, and by better I do not mean only in the narrow 
moralistic sense, but more fully alive to social obligations, 
better adjusted, better integrated, completer men and women. 

**At least that is my experience, and I think it would be 
yours if you could spend a few days in this office. Why not 
try it?" 

Timothy was so infuriated by this letter that momentarily it 
took away the ache and smart of Vera's leaving him. He lost no 
time in composing a reply. Searching Tyro's surviving letters 
for sentiments the reverse of those he now professed, he put 
examples of the two in parallel columns, with a lavish com- 
mentary of footnotes and exclamation marks. Like most mild- 
tempered men who have had little practice in disagreement he 
expressed himself much more violently than the experienced 
controversialist who keeps his weapons graded; it was not 
Tyro's views he attacked, but Tyro. An uneasy conscience no 
doubt lent venom to his pen, he felt the justice of some of 
Tyro's strictures; but for a long time now he had been losing 
the habit of entertaining thoughts and emotions of the middle 
register: they must be extreme, extreme as his feeling for Vera, 
else they were no fun to hold. So he heaped on Tyro all the 
ridicule he could muster, without respect for their past or 
concern for their future friendship: indeed, he felt himself 
trying to kill it; wherever the body still seemed warm and 
living, he planted another dart, another poisoned scratch ; until 
with a faint sigh, just audible in the quiet room, his affection for 
his old friend gave up the ghost. 

**Good morning, ladies," said Wimbush, comint: into the 



264 THE BOAT 

kitchen. His face brightened. ''Good morning, lady, I should 
say, seeing that the other one seems to have hopped it." 

*'She knew you were coming, that's why," said Effie archly. 

Wimbush sat down heavily in a chair and spread out his 
knees. ''She isn't the only one that's hopped it, either," he 
remarked. 

"You're right," said Efiie, tightening her lips. 

"Now you women are all alike," said Wimbush, "but I 
thought better of you, Effie, I really did." 

"It's all very well for you," said Effie. "You didn't have to 
wait on her. That's what I mind. If we hadn't felt sorry for him 
we should have given in our notice." 

"Sorry?" said Wimbush. "I don't know as you had any call 
to feel sorry. Quite the opposite, I should say." 

"It isn't very nice in a house, is it?" said Effie, changing her 
ground. 

"It's nicer in than out," said Wimbush, accepting in a lordly 
manner the cup of tea that Effie offered him. "It's nicer in than 
out," he repeated. "What's a house for?" 

"Oh, Mr. Wimbush," tittered Effie, "I shouldn't know." 

"Now speaking for myself," said Wimbush weightily, 
"speaking for myself, I'm not sorry she's gone. Mr. Casson 
hasn't had a word for me all these last weeks. Perfectly civiHike, 
oh yes. But he might have been talking to a block of wood." 

"Well, what was he talking to?" asked Effie, pertly. 

Wimbush ignored this sally and blew on his tea. 

"If you ask me, he didn't know whether he was coming or 
going. It's bad when it takes them at Mr. Casson's age. Not that 
I mean any disrespect." 

"Men can do what they like, I suppose," remarked Effie 
languidly. "It's her I blame, making up to him. And then all 
those presents. She might have been the Queen of Sheba. But 
Beattie thinks she's a German spy." 

"What makes your friend think that?" 

"Because she's so blonde, the type that Hitler falls for. And 
she's always asking questions." 

"What about?" 

"Oh, about the river. She reckons it's a shame that Mr. 
Casson can't row on it. But Beattie thinks she wants to signal to 



THE BOAT 265 

a German submarine." 

Wimbush sniffed. "That's not the sort of signal she makes, 
believe me." 

Effie looked serious. 

"Beattie says we're not to know anything about it. She might 
be a manicurist, she says." 

''I thought she said she was a German spy." 

"Well, she could be both, couldn't she?" 

"And supposing she was a manicurist?" 

"Well, she'd have to trim his toe-nails and so on. She 
couldn't do that in front of everybody. It's beauty-parlourwork. 
They're often alone with gentlemen for hours together." 

"I see," said Wimbush portentously. "I see. So that's what 
we're to say." He sighed heavily, put down his empty cup, and 
rested both hands on his thighs, with the elbows sticking 
outwards. 

"Do you know what they say in the village, Effie?" 

"No. Don't tell me if it's anything upsetting." 

"They say he won't stay on in Upton now she's gone." 

"He stayed before she came." 

"Yes, but that was for the boating. Now that they've turned 
his boating down, and she's gone, he won't stay. He was only 
saying to me yesterday, 'Wimbush,' he said, Tm about 
through with Upton'." 

"He hasn't got anything to do, that's his trouble," said Effie. 

"Yes, he rambles about like a ship in distress." 

"He starts to write a letter — Dear so-and'So, and then tears it 
up. Beattie counted six." 

"I didn't know she could count so far," said Wimbush. "He 
ought to have someone to live with him — a companion, like 
they advertise for in the papers — someone who could talk a 
foreign language, perhaps." 

"Why should he want to talk a foreign language?" asked 
Effie. 

"Just to give him a break. 'Twould take it off a bit." 

"Take what off?" 

"Well, what he feels when he thinks about her. He's sure to 
fret, 'tis only human nature." 

"He ought to be ashamed by rights," said Effie, but without 



266 THE BOAT 

conviction. 

"You are a hard-hearted girl," said Wimbush. "Wouldn't 
you fret, if I went away?" 

"'Twouldn't be the same thing at all," said Effie primly. 

Into the silence that followed, Beatrice entered. 

"What are you two being so talkative about?" she asked, not 
ill-pleased at finding Wimbush and Efiie with nothing to say to 
each other. 

"Oh, we were just talking about Mr. Casson," Effie said. 

"There's plenty of others doing that, you may be bound," 
said Beatrice, "without you adding your bit." 

Wimbush rose to his feet. 

"She's so sharp, isn't she, your friend, Effie? We were only 
trying to be helpful." 

"Well, that's something new," said Beatrice. 

"Mr. Wimbush thinks Mr. Casson ought to have a com- 
panion," Effie said. 

"Companion's a nice way of putting it." 

"Now please be serious, Beattie. Mr. Wimbush says someone 
who talks a foreign language." 

"And doesn't talk much, either," put in Wimbush. "Just a 
steady flow, you might say, same as I do." 

"He'd have to be fond of walking," said Effie. 

"And be — you know- -there when he was wanted, like, and 
not when he wasn't, and run errands, and perhaps do a bit of 
digging in the garden." 

"He might do some housework, too," said Effie. 

"You couldn't ask a man to do that," said Wimbush. "But 
he could lock up at night and keep away undesirable persons 
when Mr. Casson was out. The chap I'm thinking of would be a 
steady fellow of about fifty, who's seen a bit of life and knows 
his way about, and maybe has a wife and family at home as he 
wouldn't miss too much, domesticated-like, but with a bit of 
spirit too — " 

Carried away by his evocation of the sort of companion who 
would suit Timothy's needs Wimbush stretched out his arms in 
both directions, his eyes opened wide, his breath came fast, and 
his whole person and personality seemed to dilate. 

"Sounds as if he was trying to describe himself, doesn't he, 



THE BOAT 267 

Efiie?" remarked Beatrice drily. ''Perhaps he's after the job. 
He does speak broad — I can't always understand him — but 
you couldn't call it a foreign language." 

Wimbush's arms fell back to his sides and he spluttered 
wrathfully: ''Anyhow 'twouldn't be anyone like you he'd want, 
you big old parrot-face, that can't talk in your own language 
fit to be heard, let alone a foreign one." 

They glared at each other, and Effie, with a trembling spiral 
movement like the resultant of their two forces, said, "Oh, 
please, Mr. Wimbush, don't upset her. She hasn't been herself 
all the time that manicurist has been here, playing about with 
Mr. Casson's toes; she felt the disgrace of it more than you ever 
could, being a man." 

At the sound of her weak, pleading voice Wimbush's features 
relaxed somewhat, and the reference to his masculine immunity 
from shame evidently pleased him. But he felt that it would 
mean a personal defeat, a serious loss of face, if he ceased to be 
angry, and he said, less truculently than before: 

"What makes me so mad is her pretending she wants to do 
something for Mr. Casson to make him look his own height 
more, and less of a rat-tail, and then when I come forward with 
an idea taken from quite another person, as Effie knows, she 
starts crabbing and says I'm thinking of myself, as if I ever did. 
But she doesn't suggest anything herself, you notice." 

"I could," said Beatrice, "if you stopped recording yourself 
for a moment and let me get a word in." 

Wimbush threw his head back. 

"Well, what's the big idea?" 

"You think I should tell you?" 

"There you go again." 

"It's someone who could do all you could, and speak a 
foreign language, too." 

A silence followed this announcement, and the trio held their 
positions without moving, like a group waiting to be photo- 
graphed. 

"I suppose it's one of the friends who write you those funny 
letters you find in the waste-paper basket," Wimbush sneered. 

"No, he talks quite plain, even you could understand. And 
he could do a bit of digging, too." 



268 THE BOAT 

Wimbush shrugged his shoulders. His turning heel grated on 
the flagstones. ''All right," he said over his shoulder. **As long 
as it's not you, I don't care who it is." 

''Oh, do tell him, Seattle," said Effie wearily. "He'll have to 
know sometime." 

Beatrice hesitated, and Efiie beckoned to Wimbush. He came 
forward rather with the air of someone who has been asked to 
confirm the suspicion of a gas^escape. 

"If I do, it's only because of Mr. Casson," he said. 

"And I'm only telling you because of Mr. Casson," said 
Beatrice. 

The three conspirators bent their heads together. 



THE BOAT 269 



CHAPTER XVIII 

About this time a rumour began to get about that Desiree 
Lampard was engaged to be married. Timothy heard it originally 
from Effie, and it was Effie, too, who contradicted it, saying that 
Mrs. Lampard was said to be much opposed to the match, as the 
young man was a Frenchman, 'one of these Free French'. She 
was even reported to have forbidden it; and various surmises 
were afloat as to what her daughter had done, or would do, in 
the face of her mother's refusal. These ranged from committing 
suicide to entering a convent. Eyewitnesses at Welshgate Hall 
reported stormy scenes. It was said that the couple were secretly 
engaged, then that they had secretly been married; Mrs. Lam- 
pard had summoned her solicitor at dead of night, and made a 
will disinheriting her daughter if she insisted on marrying the 
Duck, as he was always called. 

The neighbourhood, Timothy gathered, didn't specially look 
forward to a French consort at Welshgate ; it would be contrary 
to tradition and besides, the French had let us down. But they 
sympathized with Desiree not only because she was crossed in 
love but because they liked her. Mrs. Lampard was not popular 
but she commanded awe; anything she said or did was news; 
she possessed the force of personality that creates a legend. Her 
rudeness was notorious and as it was expressed with an in- 
cisiveness that amounted almost to wit, her remarks were often 
quoted. Even the many who had been worsted by her were not 
ashamed of relating their discomfiture, while the few who had 
had an answer ready could never tell about it often enough. A 
new addition to the existing store of Lampardiana was sure of a 
welcome — either in the Upton district, or indeed, in London. 
The neighbourhood could not help feeling proud of owning, 
and being owned by, a woman of so much character. And what 
made the present situation so specially piquant, such a par- 
ticularly alluring tit-bit of gossip, was that Mrs. Lampard, 
though she cared for nobody else, was known to be devoted to 
Desiree. In other encounters she came out scatheless because 



270 THE BOAT 

her emotions were not involved. In this case they were ; if the 
daughter suffered, the mother suffered, too. Mrs. Lampard had 
at last met her m.atch, and in what an unexpected quarter. 

At first Timothy took less interest in the matter than he 
would have a few months ago. He had been a little hurt that 
Desiree had not written or made him another sign; for a short 
time he believed he had found a friend in her. He wished her 
well, the n\emory of her youth and freshness haunted his mind, 
but was obscured by all the happenings of the summer, the 
wearing psycho-emotive crises provoked by his efforts to come 
to terms with Upton, but most of all by his entanglement with 
Vera which had produced a crop of new emotions with which 
his nature was at once too young and too old to cope success- 
fully. He was an idealist who could not easily act without first 
convincing himself that some good purpose was being served, 
some end beyond the gratification of his immediate desires; 
and the contemplation of his behaviour stripped of any relish 
of salvation made him uneasy. While Vera was with him she 
swept out of his mind all considerations that did not arise 
out of his love for her ; and for the first few days after she was 
gone his being throbbed and ached with all its swollen and 
lacerated tissues, so that he could not think of anything else. 
Writing to her was a solace, but her answers were slow in 
coming and brief when they came ; they whetted his hunger for 
her but did not satisfy his mind or help him to the discovery of 
a tolerable routine of existence without her. 

It had not been very satisfying before she came, but at any 
rate the people who made his world had seemed life-size, some- 
times, from the trouble they gave him in dealing with them, 
larger. Now they had shrunk; Effie, Beatrice and Wimbush 
hardly seemed to achieve the stature of human beings, so 
inadequate were their responses to the kind of emotion he had 
got used to feeling. It was Gulliver's progress in reverse. From 
consorting with Brobdignagians he now found himself among 
Lilliputians. So might a general feel who, after commanding in a 
campaign, was condemned to play with toy soldiers. Between 
him and Vera's friends, whom he saw from time to time, there 
was the barrier of a common embarrassment; they did not 
know how much to talk to him about her, and he was shy of 



THE BOAT 271 

Speaking of her to them. As her entourage, whose mannerisms 
and turns of phrase recalled her to him, rather painfully, they 
had shone with reflected light. But without her they were 
colourless reminders of her absence, all except Frances, that 
perfect duenna, who, though always loyal to her friend, some' 
times answered his inquiries about her with a sudden reserve 
and soberness of manner that vaguely troubled him. 

As to the old residents, whose acquaintance had once seemed 
so desirable, they might have slipped from his conscious- 
ness altogether had not Vera's parting message revived his 
ancient grudge. The duty of revenge had been laid on him, as it 
had on Hamlet, and all the more urgently because he now had 
her to avenge, as well as himself. Like Hamlet he did not want 
to ; as far as he knew what he wanted, it was to make his life a 
frame — and not even an elaborate frame, a mere passepartout 
oblong — for her picture. But her letters contained reminders 
that he must take action against the fishing-snobs; and as, 
despite the proverb, the power of love perforce grows fainter in 
the absence of its object, and other emotions assert themselves, 
other objectives for desire to aim at, and as he often needed 
other material for his letters to her besides professions of love 
which would interest her and bring their minds in touch, he 
did, like the prisoner of the Chateau d'lf, half in fun and half 
in earnest, begin to devise plans for the downfall of the retired 
gentlemen of Upton. But as their paths never crossed, he did 
not know how to begin. 

One figure alone kept something of its old stature and 
challenged him from the past — Mrs. Purbright. All through the 
Vera episode he had kept in touch with her. True, a good deal 
of the life had gone out of their relationship since the fiasco of 
his attempt to sell the boat. The memory of that hot still 
afternoon, charged with crisis, had left them both feeling rather 
shy. The episode had taken hold of his imagination with the 
force of a symbol. Destiny had delivered such an unmistakable 
snub that he no longer conceived it possible to dispose of the 
boat; if he did, it would return to him, he felt, like some doom- 
laden amulet in a fairy story. So he walled it up in the recesses of 
his mind, and neither he nor Mrs. Purbright ever referred to it, 
except as a kind of joke. And tliere was another subject which 



272 THE BOAT 

was taboo: Miss Cross. Timothy felt exceedingly self-conscious 
if her name cropped up, though neither Mrs. Pur bright nor 
the Rector gave him any cause to. 

Yet in spite of these mutilations of his old intimacy, he was 
glad to frequent their house, for he found there, not embalmed 
but still operative, the standards which, he fondly imagined, he 
had brought with him to Upton. He had discarded, or was 
discarding them ; he was now, he told himself, a realist content 
to see himself as the elderly hero of a French farce, whom senile 
passion for a woman half his age had rendered wholly ridiculous 
and a little pitiable; this was his role and he must accept it. 
The emotions he entertained for Vera did neither of them any 
credit, they were nothing to be thankful for, you could not 
praise God with them, nor did they increase the world's store 
pf beauty and gladness; they were the reverse of romantic, the 
kindest reception they could hope for from a world which on 
the whole was kind to lovers, was a shrug. Never mind; they 
happened to people, and they had happened to him. He could 
not ask for sympathy from Mrs. Purbright for those kisses 
rewarded, if not bought, with handbags and furs and diamonds, 
ingenious though she was in turning a railway sleeper into a 
spring-board. 

Perhaps he would confide in her some day; and meanwhile it 
was comforting to sit among her encompassing treasures, 
redundantly proclaiming the breadth, length and height of her 
aspirations — an earthworm content with the ground, and listen 
to her hopes and fears for the drama at Welshgate Hall. Her 
sympathies of course were with the lovers but she felt for Mrs. 
Lampard, too. 

**How easy it is, Mr. Casson, to be unfair to the feelings of 
older people, especially when they seem to conflict with the . . . 
the requirements of romance! Mrs. Lampard's daughter is 
everything to her ; could one expect her to give her up without a 
struggle? Why did she not re-marry, why is there no step- 
father at Welshgate Hall? Her daughter knows the answer to 
that question. It was not, it still is not, for lack of opportunity; 
Mrs. Lampard has had many offers, I believe; and do the 
feelings grow less strong with age?" 

She appealed to the room as much as to him, but Timothy 



THE BOAT 273 

answered on behalf of the feelings of the elderly. 

''Of course they do not!" Mrs. Purbright went on. "With 
the young, love is a spontaneous flowering of the emotions, one 
takes it for granted. June roses are delightful, no doubt, but 
are they as precious as the roses of December ? Do they cost the 
tree as much effort, do they bespeak the same tenacity of 
Nature? Which is the more worthy of our regard?" 

'The roses of December sometimes look a bit bedraggled," 
said Timothy. "Probably they wish they had come out earlier." 

"But we don't," said Mrs. Purbright, "and they bloom for us, 
as well as for themselves." 

"Do you really think so?" said Timothy. 

"I am not in the secret of their intentions," said Mrs. Pur- 
bright. "I can only answer for their effect on me." 

Timothy was silent for a moment; then he said, "But Mrs. 
Lampard preferred her daughter to a second husband." 

"Oh, I am only surmising, but to a woman of her passionate 
nature the temptation must have been great." 

"Perhaps she has had a lover," suggested Timothy. But, if 
he had hoped to startle Mrs. Purbright he was disappointed. 

"Perhaps," she repeated, absently. "It may sound uncon- 
ventional in a clergyman's wife, but I should not want to 
criticize her. Autumn hath violets as well as spring, and age its 
sweetness hath, as well as youth. But perhaps I botanize too 
much?" 

"No, no," said Timothy. "I love the language of flowers." 

"Your tone challenges me to defend us older people," said 
Mrs. Purbright. "Against what charge? For caring too much? 
Is that a vice? Is it because you see something inelegant in later 
love? I sympathize with Mrs. Lampard's attachment to her 
daughter, for I shall not find it easy to let Edgell go." 

"But you would not stand in his way?" said Timothy. 

"It depends, it depends. In certain circumstances I believe I 
should stop at nothing." 

Timothy walked slowly home. Was it imagination, or did the 
fires that blazed upon the crests or smouldered in the deep 
hollows of the autvimn woods carry the message Mrs. Pur- 
bright meant them to ? If there was such beauty in corruption 



274 THE BOAT 

and decay, then perhaps he might claim for his love that it was 
not just a warning beacon, a brothel gas-fire set upon a hill? 
The thought soothed him, and for the first time for many weeks 
the forms and colours of the landscape made a harmony. Why 
do I want to see myself as an agent of the good? he wondered. 
Hov/ much happier I should be if it wasn't for this absurd 
presumption ! And dragging Nature into it, too, as if I had never 
heard of the pathetic fallacy! Low overhead an aeroplane 
zoomed and roared; the frightened birds fled squawking from 
the threat of its black shadow. Timothy's mood wavered ; and 
here was Colonel Harbord's gateway, the pretentious portal to 
Lawnflete. An arc of iron spanned it, with a lamp on top. How 
easy to fix a booby-trap there, attached to a tempting string that 
the incoming colonel could hardly fail to twitch! 'Darling 
Vera, he looked so funny with the tar streaming down his old 
red face! It's only a beginning, of course! I've got something 
much juicier in preparation for the others!' How childish it 
seemed ; and yet how pleased she would be ; and how could he 
better please himself than by pleasing her? 

He wandered on, a prey to conflicting thoughts. 

The afternoon post brought a letter. 

"Dear Mr. Casson, 

"What must you be thinking of me — that is, if you think of 
me at all, but I expect you've quite forgotten Welshgate Hall, 
and the girl who called on you so unceremoniously one after- 
noon, in June, I think — but it seems years ago. I hope you 
remember, because I can never forget your kindness to me that 
day. And I should have written long ago to thank you, if it 
hadn't been for all the things that have happened since — 
terrible, unbearable to look back on. 

"It's all come right, and we're engaged and the announcement 
will be in the papers shortly — but I wanted you to know before 
almost anyone, because, you see, it's through you it happened. 
I owe all my happiness to you. This is quite serious because, if 
it hadn't been for your advice, I could never have persuaded 
Mummy to give us her consent. I suppose I could have married 
him without, but it would have killed me to. Does this sound 
silly? It wouldn't, if you knew what we have always been to 



THE BOAT 275 

each other. 

*'You told me, do you remember, to stand up to her. You 
suggested she was selfish. I resented that at the time, but as I 
rode home I realized you were right. And I did stand up to her. 
She said the most terrible things to me — you would have 
thought she could not love me, but I know now that it was love 
that made her say them. Can you imagine loving anyone like 
that? I can't. In the end I didn't answer; think of it, for a whole 
week I didn't speak to her! Meal after meal went by and we 
didn't even look at each other! I don't know how I kept it up — 
I never could have, but somehow I trusted what you said. Then 
I got quite ill like someone in a book, and he was so miserable 
about it he begged me to give him up. He has behaved like an 
angel all through — Mummy admits that now, she has quite 
come round to him, or I shouldn't be writing to you like this. 
But for weeks she didn't — she tried to m.ake me go into a home, 
somewhere in Scotland. But I wouldn't. I got quite dazed and 
light-headed and sometimes forgot where I was, like a very old 
person does. I suppose I had a kind of breakdown, and Mummy 
nearly had one, too, she looked so ill and strained and 
miserable. 

''Does it all sound rather funny, two women behaving like 
that to each other? It wasn't, I assure you. 

'Then at last, she began to grow different, she began to talk 
to me in an ordinary way and to mention his name, w^hich 
she never would before — it was one of the things that hurt me 
most. And then she said he could come to the house, and do you 
know, the very first time he came, she welcomed him as if he 
had been her son. 

"Well, now, I've told you everything, at the risk of boring 
you, but gratitude will out, I simply had to, for you have made 
two people blissfully happy. 

"But oh dear, oh dear, the gratitude is all on my side for 
I've done none of the things I promised you I'd do. I'm sure 
they haven't let you row your boat, I should have heard if they 
had. And you've never been to see us at Welshgate again ! My 
only excuse is, that you wouldn't have enjoyed it if you had. 
But you must promise to come as soon as Francois and I 
are married. Oh the happiness it gives me, just to write those 



276 THE BOAT 

words ! And you really shall have your boat ! Mummy wouldn't 
refuse me anything now. 

"It's to be a country wedding because of the war and there 
won't be many people, but you will come, won't you? The date 
isn't fixed yet, but it will say on your card. It has to be at a 
Roman Catholic Church, which Mummy rather hates; indeed 
her chief reason for not wanting me to marry Frangois was that 
he is an R.C. 

**Once again let me say thank you, dear Mr. Casson, and for 
Francois, too: I've told him what an angel you are, and he is 
immensely looking forward to meeting you. Only think, if you 
had never come sightseeing to Welshgate, this could never have 
happened and I should have been condemned to being an old 
maid, for I would never, never, never have married anyone else! 
Always yours most gratefully, 

Desiree Lampard." 

It would be scarcely too much to say that this letter caused a 
revolution in Timothy's state of mind. He trembled with 
happiness. He did not trouble to ask himself the reason — 
whether it was the satisfaction to his power-complex, having 
at last got the better of Mrs. Lampard, or whether it was the 
snobbish satisfaction contained in the prospect of an ampler 
social life, or whether it was the revival of his old desire for the 
boat. Certainly his first act, after he had written to congratulate 
Desiree, and tell her how much he looked forward to the 
wedding, was to go down to the boat-house. He had not visited 
it for months, although, from some kind of superstitition, he 
kept the key always in his pocket. The lock turned stiffly and he 
had to push the door open; damp and leaves and cobwebs and 
disuse combined to keep him out ; it was like breaking into the 
palace of the Sleeping Beauty. The goddess slept in her soft 
narrow bed, transoms of coloured light falling on her. She did 
not seem to have changed; but raising her reverently by the 
rowlock he detected on her polished flank a narrow ridge of 
green, and from the rudder wisps of water-weed were trailing 
like green hair. She has grown older, he thought sadly; even 
here in her shrine she has not escaped decay. To rot away un- 
used! — he put the thought from him and substituted another, 



THE BOAT 277 

brighter one; the glorious morning when he and Wimbush 
would take her out, and cleanse and deck her for her maiden 
voyage. And with that promise he left her. 

Meanwhile there was the wedding-present to get. Of late 
Timothy had spent a lot of time and money buying pre- 
sents. Of the first he had plenty to spare, never so much; of the 
second increasingly little. His stockbrokers had been pleased, 
their judicially-worded letters, solemnly comparing this holding 
v/ith that, almost convinced him that it was wiser to sell his invest- 
ments than to keep them; but his solicitors, to whom he had to 
write for his share-certificates, warned him against the inroads 
he was making on his capital. But what was the loss of a few 
pounds a year compared with the rapturous pleasure of the 
purchase, the sudden access of power as the goods crossed the 
counter, and the sight of the recipient's face, alight with eager- 
ness and curiosity as she took the parcel from his hands? 

Timothy's present, for which he travelled much farther afield 
than Swirrelsford, was as beautiful and nearly as expensive as 
he could have wished. It was a Chinese sang-de-boeuf bowl, 
wonderfully lustrous and faintly iridescent. The potter seemed 
to have poured on the colour with a careless hand, leaving, at 
the base, patches and streaks uncovered; it took time for 
Timothy to realize how much these seemingly artless lacunas 
enhanced the colour's value, and how the beholder's eye would 
never weary of the incompleteness. 

At first he refrained from taking his present from its wrap- 
pings, fearing that he could never tie it up again. But he was 
tormented by the desire to look at it and soon found reasons 
why he should: one was that he had forgotten to put his card 
inside. Another and (he persuaded himself) a better one was 
that he ought to show it to Beatrice and Effie, for whose educa- 
tion in the arts he still felt responsible. By this time the engage- 
ment had been announced in the papers and it would be a 
natural and at the same time dramatic way of letting his staff 
know that he had been invited to the wedding. 

Beatrice and EfHe did not fail him; they expressed the 
warmest admiration for the object, Eflie's only misgiving being 
that she would not like the job of dusting it. Timothy told 
her she needn't: as long as the bowl was in his care he would 



278 THE BOAT 

dust it himself. It could stand in the corner cupboard, out of 
harm's way, but resplendently visible whenever he chose to 
look at it. 

Thus fortified, he settled down to possess his soul in patience 
and await the appointed day, meanv/hile losing himself in 
wedding fantasies of top-hats, grey waistcoats, morning-coats 
and spats, all of which he possessed but had hardly expected to 
wear again. Sunshine and crowded staircases and high gold and 
white rooms thronged with excited, smiling faces — how it all 
came back; with sadness and nostalgia, but also with joy and 
hope, and with the vision of himself as a golden intermediary, 
a celestial Pandarus, floating along the gilded cornices, shower- 
ing down benedictions, publicly recognized and acclaimed. 
Foiled for so long, Timothy's unconscious fantasy of himself as 
a general benefactor was at last fulfilled. 

He could not get it quite straight — could not quite square 
the apotheosized, hymeneal Timothy with Vera's secret lover. 
To her also he had been a benefactor (it might be claimed) but in 
a hole-and-corner fashion, and far from disinterestedly. That 
episode was a stain on the white radiance of his present feelings, 
his longing to identify himself with the happiness of Desiree 
and Frangois, and when he wrote to Vera he was sharply aware 
of the discrepancy, for his pen misliked the subject, and would 
only touch on it belittlingly — **a marriage has been arranged, 
and will shortly take place, between our old friend Mrs. Lam- 
pard's daughter, Desiree, and a young, titled Frenchman whom 
the natives call the Duck. The old lady doesn't seem to like 
the idea. You will be amused to hear that I'm going to the 
wedding." No, it would not do; better not mention it at all. 
The art of having a mistress, and combining devotion to her 
with the other, more easily avowable interests of one's life was 
essentially French. It was an art that Timothy was not too old to 
learn ; but how vexatious these conflicts between loyalties could 
be, — rending the bosom, sapping the integrity of one's 
thoughts, splitting the atom of one's personality! 

But Vera was far away — indeed he did not quite know where 
she was, for her notes seldom told him her immediate where- 
abouts — and Desiree and Francois were close at hand. For the 
time being he would abandon himself to the idyll of their 



THE BOAT 279 

marriage, whose architect he could claim himself to be. 

The days passed in a trance of pleasant anticipation, and 
Timothy used them to overhaul his feelings for the village in 
general; he must think more kindly of all its inhabitants, for 
soon he would have to meet them at the great occasion. He still 
did not know the date, and was greatly surprised, one morning, 
when Effie told him. 

'The 24th! Why, that's in a week's time! How did you hap- 
pen to hear, Effie?" 

*'Mrs. Burnett told me, sir. She obliges for Mrs. Harbord 
when she can spare the time, and she saw the invitation card on 
the mantelpiece, in full view it was, so she couldn't help seeing it. 
Besides, Mrs. Harbord told her." 

''How interesting, Effie! I expect I shall be getting mine 
soon." 

A tiny fear clutched at Timothy's heart that could only be 
exorcised by action. The 24th! It was high time to send his 
present. He could not do that, of course, until he had received 
his invitation; but he could at any rate tie up the parcel, and 
this he did, taking all the morning over it and using enough 
straw and shavings to ensure safe transit for a dinner-service. 
'With my warmest good wishes', 'With heartiest good wishes', 
'With all good wishes', at last he chose from among them, and 
having crossed out the Mr. in front of Timothy, to show he was 
a family friend, he slipped the card into the gleaming and 
capacious belly of the bowl. Packed to resist a train smash, it 
stood in the hall, waiting. 

Timothy, too, waited. Curiously enough, after the surprise 
of Effie's disclosure he regained his confidence, and watched the 
posts come in with absolute assurance that the next would 
produce the wished-for envelope. Of course the invitations 
could not all be sent out in one day, or even in two. Meanwhile 
he had to hear from Effie and Beatrice and Mrs. Burnett a great 
many details about the approaching ceremony ; the dresses that 
Mrs. Lampard's tenants in Upton were going to wear if the 
weather was wet or fine, cold or warm, bright or cloudy ; how 
they were arranging transport, who was to be given a lift in 
who's car, to save petrol; guesses as to where the honeymoon 
would be spent; speculations as to what Mrs. Lampard would 



280 THE BOAT 

do now that she no longer had her daughter to keep her com- 
pany. The wedding came to be regarded as an unofficial Bank 
Holiday; other dates were reckoned in relation to it: ''That'll 
be before, or after, the wedding." 

Though not all Mrs. Lampard's tenants were invited to the 
ceremony, all or nearly all were to be entertained at Welshgate 
Hall; and of these the less affluent had subscribed to a joint 
wedding present. As the day drew nearer a feeling of relaxation 
made itself felt, edged with expectation; the village began to 
slow down, look about, and metaphorically lick its lips. Like 
an audience at the play it leaned back and confidently waited 
for the curtain to go up, and Timothy tried to lean back, too, 
and look as though the spectacle was meant for him. 

But his faith was being shaken, and on the Tuesday morning, 
two days before the v/edding, when the invitation had still not 
come, it had sunk to a low ebb. He had given the servants to 
understand that he was going; he had had his morning clothes 
cleaned and pressed. Now Beatrice and Effie were asking for the 
day off, so that they, too, could stand in the crowd at Swirrels- 
ford, leaving Wimbush, who was not interested in weddings, to 
look after the house. Pulling himself together, Timothy told 
them that he mxight not be present at the ceremony but that they 
could certainly go, and he would get his lunch somewhere else. 

It cost him so much to say this, and meet their raised eye- 
brows and tactful silence that he almost decided to leave Upton 
for a couple of days and come back when it was all over. But 
he shrank from such a public show of pique; he would stay, 
even if he was the only man left in the village, emptied of folk 
that pious afternoon. Besides, there were several posts still to 
come. Aware of his disappointment, Beatrice and Effie ceased to 
refer to the wedding, indeed they ostentatiously avoided it. 

On the Wednesday morning Timothy's spirits had sunk to a 
new low level. After much cogitation, and making sure that 
Beatrice and Effie were out of earshot, he rang up Welshgate Hall. 
Could he speak to Miss Lampard ? Evidently his name conveyed 
nothing to the butler who politely asked, was it very important 
because Miss Lampard was extremely busy? Timothy said it 
was rather important. 

After a long pause Desir^e came to the telephone. Her voice 



THE BOAT 281 

did not sound like her. It was extremely embarrassed, and she 
laughed a great deal. She thanked him effusively for his good 
wishes and his letter ; she agreed with him that she hardly knew 
whether she was on her head or her heels ; but she said nothing 
about seeing him at the wedding or afterwards. 

In the afternoon Timothy decided to take a long walk; he 
felt more comfortable in motion. He walked over the hills, 
unconscious of fatigue, spurred on by bitter thoughts. So Mrs. 
Lampard could refuse her daughter something, after all; she 
could refuse to ask Timothy Casson to her wedding. 

He felt he hated her. She was a poisonous woman. All the 
frustration of his life in Upton, his foolish and exaggerated 
behaviour, his failure to be of any use to himself or anyone 
else — all, all could be laid at Mrs. Lampard's door. 

Thinking such thoughts, linking together a score of barely 
related circumstances to make one long indictment, feeling 
that if he met Mrs. Lampard he would strike her, he descended 
the hill into the next valley. Suddenly he noticed that all along 
the grass verge, as far as his eye could see, an endless serpent 
trailing down the hill, was a line of books. Some were propped 
together, backs up as in a bookcase; some lay on their sides; 
some were open, their pages fluttering in the breeze; some lay 
face downwards, their leaves bent and crumpled, as though a 
careless reader had wanted to keep his place. Then Timothy 
remembered that the little town below him had been organizing 
a salvage drive ; leaflets had been sent round begging people to 
contribute their unwanted books. He himself had received one, 
but had been too wedding-drunk to act on it. 

There they lay, a small selection of civilization's most precious 
and characteristic output, naked to the elements, uncared for, 
finished, waiting for the knacker's cart to come and con\'ert 
them into bombs. 

Walking slowly Timothy bent over the volumes, like a 
general reviewing an awkward squad. Dust from the road had 
gathered on their pages ; raindrops had spotted them ; many had 
been torn and dirty and defaced before they were thrown out 
for cannon-fodder. They were not looking their best ; but even 
so Timothy had to admit that, intrinsically, few of them were 
worth the trouble of taking home. 



282 THE BOAT 

Still, he felt an impulse towards rescue work and would fain 
save one of them from salvage. How many old books of 
reference, what numbers of bound magazines! The Victorian 
Age would not feel flattered if it knew how many of its popular 
favourites lay abandoned by the roadside, elderly, unfashion- 
able children of the humane century, exposed to perish on the 
heights above Upton. 

He picked up a book, and presently discarded it for one he 
liked better, and so on down the pathetic, dingy line, until his 
faculty of choice began to sicken. Perhaps he was stealing, for 
these books were not ownerless, they were the property of the 
State, and the State was treating them as all modern states treat 
their children, as Moloch treated the children of Carthage. 
The State would resent, might even prosecute him for giving 
shelter to an embusque volume. 

Someone was coming up the hill, a Government agent, 
perhaps. Timothy bent down hastily. Here was a find, Pascal's 
Pensees, bound in calf. Who could have had the heart to throw 
this book away? He opened it at the book-plate. Travelling 
downwards his eyes took in first a helmet, then a warrior's arm, 
clenched in a rigid right-angle and terminating in a mailed fist 
clutching a battle-axe. Below was the motto, 'What I have, I 
hold', and last, the owner's name, in thin, copper-plate writing, 
7ulia Lampard'. 

Anyhow she hadn't held the Pascal. Timothy checked a 
childish impulse to throw the book down, and continued his 
inspection. All these French books, upon examination, proved 
to be Mrs. Lampard's. They did not all bear the same book- 
plate. In Tallemant des Reaux's memoirs there was a lady of the 
period with her finger to her lips, and below, the motto *A 
moins soyez discret'. Not very discreet, perhaps, to jettison 
these nice French books at the very moment her daughter was 
going to marry a Frenchman ; there must be hundreds of them, 
several book-cases full, devoted to destruction. Still, probably 
no reader's eye but his would ever look at them again. He 
wandered on, still preferring the Pascal to any book that caught 
his eye. At this point the calf-bound volumes ended, and the 
novels in paper jackets began. These in their turn gave way to 
almanacs and telephone directories and finally to railway guides, 



THE BOAT 283 

in faded orange covers. He picked one up; a nostalgic whim 
seized him to find out at what hour, in 1924, the Simplon' 
Orient Express left the Gare de Lyon for Venice. As he picked 
the book up its leaves fluttered open and a slip of paper fell 
out, writing-paper with a coronet at the top. It was a short 
letter, very short. 

June 1st, 1924. 
Madame, 

You can say what you like, but I assure you that the little 
Desiree is as much mine as yours. 

Charleroi. 

So this was the secret of Mrs. Lampard's opposition to her 
daughter's marriage : Francois was Desiree's half-brother. 

As Timothy was staring at the letter the man coming from 
below drew level Vv^ith him. He did not seem to be a Govern- 
ment agent; at any rate he grinned at Timothy and said: 

"Found something?" 

Timothy waited until the man had got some way ahead, and 
then slowly followed him up the hill. At the crest he paused. 
Below him in the brittle October sunshine lay Upton-on- 
Swirrel, much as it must appear to the pilot of a German 
bomber, carrying his lethal load. Should he drop it, or 
shouldn't he? No doubt it was his duty to, for his country was 
at war with ours; perhaps, too, he had private reasons for 
wanting to harm us, a mother or sweetheart to avenge, an old 
score to pay off. But he couldn't help hesitating, for the village 
looked so innocent and defenceless. 

Tossed like a cork between thought and feeling, starting and 
stopping, straying from one side of the pathway to the other, 
with as little sense of direction as if he had been a landmine, 
Timothy drifted down on Upton. 

He did what at the time he believed to be right; he put the 
Due de Charleroi's letter in an envelope and posted it to Mrs. 
Lampard. But afterwards, in the misery of self-reproach, he 
used to wonder whether he would have done so if, on his 
return, he had found an invitation for Desiree's wedding 
waiting for him. Would he have? Would he have? Because, 



284 THE BOAT 

until the last, he was in two minds about sending it; so unde- 
cided, indeed, that he went out and stood beside the pillar-box 
and waited until the postman came; waited until the man had 
actually cleared the box before he could bring himself to put 
the letter in his hand. He had written the address with his type- 
writer ; the Upton postmark would be the only clue to whence 
it came. 

About noon the next day Effie came to Timothy and told 
him with a grave face and heightened manner that word was 
going round Upton that the wedding had been cancelled. 
Timothy by that time was beyond thinking or feeling any more 
about it. It had been for Mrs. Lampard to decide. But wherever 
he went in the quiet house he seemed to hear the sound of 
sobbing. 



THE BOAT 



CHAPTER XIX 

Beatrice was indignant at the cancellation of the wedding; 
she spoke as if the whole thing were a put-up job, a hoax, aimed 
at all Upton and at her particularly. Mrs. Lampard, she 
suggested darkly, knew all along it wasn't going to come off. 
It wasn't fair on people, she insisted, to behave like that. 
Everyone had been left looking silly (this reflection gave her a 
certain grim satisfaction) except Mr. Casson ; she congratulated 
him, in effect, on not having been led by the nose. ''At the time 
we thought it was a shame you weren't asked, sir, but now we 
know better." Effie, on the other hand, adopted a pensive 
demeanour that clung to her for several days. "Poor things," 
she said, ''they will be so disappointed. I don't know about 
him, being French, perhaps he wouldn't mind, but she was so 
lovely.^ ^ Putting Desiree into the past tense, she seemed to put 
herself there, too ; and perhaps to identify herself a little with 
the stricken girl. "They all say it was Mrs. Lampard that did it, 
she's so proud, she didn't think he was good enough for her 
daughter." Then Effie brightened a little. "Perhaps it's all for 
the best — she'll marry some nice Englishman now." 

Timothy hoped that Effie might be right, but he was still 
haunted by Desiree's distress and the thought that his had been 
the hand that snatched away her happiness. Yet what else could 
he have done? Her mother had been prepared to take the risk; 
might he not have done the same, if he had been on better 
terms with her ? How much of pure revenge had lain behind his 
action? Plenty, he knew, when it first occurred to him: none, 
he hoped, when he handed the envelope to the postman. Yet 
the first thing he had done, when he got home, was to see if the 
invitation had arrived. If it had, might he not have joined Mrs. 
Lampard in her gamble with society? 

He tried to find out what had happened at Welshgate but an 
iron curtain had descended, and though rumours were rife, no 
one in Upton seemed to know for certain whether die mother 
and daughter were still there. Mrs, Lampard's gift for evading 



286 THE BOAT 

publicity did not fail her now. 

After the traditional nine days, during which it was in 
everybody's mouth, the Welshgate Wonder ceased to be 
talked about. The war absorbed it. But on Timothy it left a 
scar that did not heal. One after another the shoots that his 
nature tried to put forth had been snapped off; the sap bled at 
the breaks and then fell back. He was a shrub that could make 
no growth. And a corresponding inertia had overtaken his 
mind, which grew more and more suspicious of any activity 
presented to it. None of his faculties would act in concert. 
Even the name of Vera was not the battle-cry it had been. Her 
letters spoke the language of love; but too perfunctorily to 
carry across the distance, and her diatribes against the fisher- 
men sometimes seemed unreal to him. He wanted to act with, 
not against somebody. He had no background of companion- 
ship with her to make her a food as well as a stimulant, and his 
longing for her was a wasting asset to his emotions, and resented, 
as a cuckoo, by older-established loyalties and habits of mind. 

Yet how drab and spiritless, even in absence, she could make 
her rivals seem! Indeed, how all his affections, using the word 
in its widest sense, warred against each other! If only he had 
Mrs. Purbright's gift of making them co-operate, and pool their 
several lustres, instead of always taking the shine and meaning 
out of each other! For instance, Timothy should have been 
touched by Tyro's answer to his rude, querulous and wounding 
letter. Tyro professed himself astonished that Timothy should 
have received his recantation in such a hostile spirit. 

"My dear fellow, what a Junius was lost in you! I could 
hardly have believed my eyes. Is this my Timothy? I asked 
myself. Honestly, I am only now beginning to recover from your 
bludgeonings. You are as right, of course, in one way as you 
are mistaken (dare I say so?) in many ways. I ought to have 
apologized for changing my opinions. No, not apologized, for 
no apology is needed when one leaves the wrong path for the 
right: but like a motorist I should have held my hand out. I 
shall not insult your intelligence, Timothy, by suggesting that 
you regard consistency of opinion as a virtue; an opinion is 
only valuable in so far as it is true. If the word apostasy has an 
unpleasant ring, it is because men have apostatized from fear, 



THE BOAT 287 

under duresse. I would change my opinions twenty times a day 
if by doing so I felt I was bringing myself, and others, to a 
nearer apprehension of the truth. I shall not change them now, 
because I believe them to be right. It is not that I have been 
influenced by propaganda, as you seem to think. My work in 
this office, trivial as it is, gives me an insight into the feelings of 
ordinary men and women which could be got no other way; 
and my 'conversion' (as you scornfully term it) to a more 
sanguine view of human nature has not been a self-generated 
movement of my mind, induced by a consideration of abstrac- 
tions, though many better men than you or I, Timothy, have 
arrived at their opinions by that route. No, it has been brought 
about insensibly, by listening to the multitude of voices, many 
of them illiterate and inarticulate, which 'speak one message 
of one sense to me' ; and I could no more be mistaken than, 
when listening to the buzz and murmur of a crowd, one could 
fail to tell whether it was angry or goodhumoured. An inherited 
instinct, Timothy, an inherited instinct. 

**But I do apologise for expressing my views in such a way 
that you, my oldest friend, seem to have taken offence. It never 
occurred to me that you would misunderstand my natural 
vehemence, or I would have taken steps to curb it. In future, 
my letters to you will be in a flatter tone. ... I have plenty of 
examples round me: how flat these letters are, that I have to 
search for innocent or deliberate indiscretions! Yet, in a way, 
I like them the better for it, for have we not lived too much 
among clever people, for whom the form of a thought is more 
valuable than the content? You seem to have convicted me of 
self-contradiction: all you have really done is to make me 
realize, more clearly than I did myself, that whereas once I held 
one opinion, now I hold another. Before, I was impatient with 
humanity because of its indifference to moral issues ; now I see 
that as soon as those issues are put before it in an unmistakable 
form, a large part will rally to the cause of Right. What would 
right be, if it could not be expressed in terms of human 
behaviour? An abstraction. And what value would tliat 
abstraction have, if it could not be apprehended even when 
confronted by its opposite? 

'*As you never, I think, shared my misanthropy and pessi- 



288 THE BOAT 

mism, I imagined you would welcome my change of attitude, 
for though it has no importance for the world, it has for me; 
things make sense to me in a way they never did before. I am 
much happier than I used to be. And I know you are fond 
enough of me to let this count, even if, as your letter suggests, 
you no longer wish us to be friends." 

Timothy replied at once, taking back almost everything he 
had said in his previous letter. In an effort to justify himself, 
he said that the protO'Tyro had been a more effective missionary 
than perhaps he realized : some of the mud with which he had 
daubed the visage of mankind had stuck. Now under the 
influence of the deuterO'Tyro, he would try to wipe it off. He 
assured Tyro that their friendship was unimpaired, and that he 
felt no animosity towards him. This last was nearly true; but 
as the letter dragged itself along, loaded with generalizations 
and efforts to meet Tyro on his own new ground, he felt that he 
was attitudinizing, and that the letter had no more to do with 
Tyro than an essay has with the master it is shov/n up to, and 
meant no more to Timothy than an exercise in schoolboy 
dialectics. He had to think of something to say, and this was the 
result. It was an irreproachably polite and reasonable but lifeless 
study in agreement, and Tyro might mark it ,/3 — . 'Casson is a 
trier, but his work lacks individuality and conviction'. 

One morning, when she called him, Effie asked Timothy if he 
had heard anything about the dog. "Dog?" said Timothy. Oh, 
he hadn't heard then, because Mr. Wimbush had said some- 
thing about one. ''Not in my hearing," said Timothy. ''Has a 
dog been killing the chickens?" 

"Oh no, not that sort of dog, it was just a dog that Wimbush 
happened to have mentioned." 

"Is he fond of animals?" asked Timothy. Effie seemed quite 
taken aback and wilted visibly. She disclaimed all knowledge 
of the gardener's tastes. 

Timothy dismissed the matter from his mind, but later in 
the day, when he was interviewing Beatrice about the food, she 
remarked, "No one can say I'm wasteful, but I often have to 
throw things away that would make a good meal for a dog." 

"Dog, what dog?" 



THE BOAT 289 

*'Oh, no special dog, but any good sized dog that wasn't too 
particular what it ate." 

"Have you seen a dog about?" asked Timothy. 

"Oh no, sir," said Beatrice, almost huffily. "There's nothing 
here that you don't see, sir. I take good care of that. But there 
are dogs and dogs." 

"Quite true," said Timothy. "But I don't know much about 
them, I'm afraid." 

"We live and learn, sir. There's no harm in a dog if it's kept 
in its place." 

"No indeed," said Timothy warmly. "But I'm afraid I'm 
not a doggy person. They're so noisy, and besides, they smell." 

Beatrice's mouth closed like a trap, the angles of her face 
stuck out and she said no more. 

A dog! In spite of Beatrice's disclaimers Timothy could not 
rid his mind of the idea that there was a dog somewhere, and 
putting on his overcoat, for the days were growing chilly, he 
went into the stableyard and peered into the loose boxes, where 
a dog might easily lurk. Not a yap, not a bark, not a growl. 
Then Timothy remembered that the subject had originated 
with Wimbush, and set off to find him. 

"Good morning, sir, were you taking a look round the 
premises?" 

"Well, just to make sure everything was in order." 

"Them outbuildings, sir, they are a proper hidey'hole for 
tramps." 

"Have you ever found one there, Wimbush?" 

"They wouldn't come with me around, sir, but of course 1 
can't be here all the time." 

"Naturally not." 

"Of course," said Wimbush reflectively, "there's nothing 
like a dog to keep off tramps." 

That dog again ! 

"But we've got Nelson," said Timothy. "He's as good as a 
watchdog any day." 

"Ha, ha, sir, but a dog's so companionable. Nelson's only 
a policeman." 

"But you often talk to him." 



290 THE BOAT 

*'Well, sir, just to pass the time. And Nelson can't bark," 
added Wimbush almost wistfully. 

''But what a good thing!" said Timothy. ''Do you want 
him to?" 

Wimbush looked as crestfallen as his naturally sanguine cast 
of features would permit. 

"Well, sir, Nelson's talk is all plain'Sailing — if you see what 
I mean. A child could understand what Nelson says." 

"He uses rather long words, sometimes." 

"Oh yes, sir, he learned them in the police college. But 
you'd find them all in the English dictionary, if you took the 
trouble to look. A dog, now, he speaks what you might almost 
call a foreign language." 

Timothy agreed that this was so. 

"A foreign language," Wimbush repeated. '"Twould be a 
kind of change, sir, hearing a foreign language." 

Timothy considered. His thoughts flew off to Italy, as 
Wimbush meant they should. The mellifluous lingua Toscandy 
especially when pronounced by the hocca Romanay did not 
invite comparison with any dog's bark he had ever heard ; but 
those harsh-sounding monosyllables that the Venetians 
shouted at each other from traghetto and fondamenta — the 
'staiV and ^premiV of the gondolier rounding a corner — well, 
bark was just the word. He had said 'barked' himself, more than 
once, in alluding to them. His face must have grown dreamy 
with reminiscence, for Wimbush added, hopefully: 

"And there's other noises a dog can make besides barking, 
sir. It can growl and howl." He paused, and taking a plunge, 
added, "just like those Eyties do." 

By what different routes, reflected Timothy, have our 
thoughts converged. 

"I'm not saying they're the same language," said Wimbush, 
"but what I mean to say, I realize you must get tired of hearing 
all of us speaking the King's English." 

Wimbush spoke with a proud humility which Timothy 
found touching. He said he was always pleased to hear Wim- 
bush talk, and not having grasped the gardener's drift was 
turning to go, when Wimbush said : 

"Beg pardon, sir, but Nelson have heard of a dog." 



THE BOAT 291 

Puzzled, Timothy stopped. ''Has lie? How interesting." 

"What I mean to say, if you were to approach Nelson — " 

''Approach Nelson, Wimbush?" 

"Yes, sir," said Wimbush doggedly (there is no other word). 
"He have heard of a fine dog, but he'd rather tell you about 
him himself, sir." 

"I shall be pleased to hear about the dog, of course," said 
Timothy, rather grandly. "Is it a kind of police dog?" 

"Oh no, sir, it's a very affectionate animal. Nelson says." 

"Is he going to take it about with him in his car?" 

Wimbush looked shocked at the idea. '"Twould be against 
regulations, for a policeman to have a lap-dog. Not that he is 
a lap'dog," Wimbush went on, rather indignantly, as if some- 
one else had made the suggestion. '"Tis a proper man's dog 
by all accounts. But talk of the devil, here is Nelson. He'll 
explain to you better nor I can." 

As though at a pre-arranged signal Nelson was seen advancing 
with measured tread across the lawn. He saluted Timothy. 
After they had exchanged greetings there was a noticeable and 
pregnant pause. 

"I have broken the ground with Mr. Casson," said Wimbush 
at last to Nelson, "and he sees no objection to your idea of a 
dog." 

Timothy was like the victim of a conspiracy who feels the 
toils closing round him but cannot tell exactly what they are. 
"Well," he began, "not to the idea of a dog, perhaps, but as to a 
dog itself, I — " 

"It's like this, sir," said Nelson. "I'll make it all perfectly 
plain. The dog would be a good dog." He paused, heavily. 

Timothy said he was sure it would be. Remembering Nelson's 
technique in broaching the subject of his car, he also felt sure 
the dog was his. Probably he wanted Timothy to let him keep it 
in the stable. 

"The dog in question is a golden retriever," said Nelson. "It's 
age would be about four months, as far as can be at present 
ascertained." 

"Oh, quite a big dog," said Timothy fatuously. 

"But not too big, sir," said Nelson firmly. "It's just the right 
size for a dog. Not too trumpery, like a peke, or too massive, 



292 THE BOAT 

like a Great Dane. As a policeman, I speak with some experience 
of dogs." 

Timothy nodded. 

"A dog should be fierce in defending its master's life and 
property against unauthorized persons, but not so aggressive 
as to keep away visitors." 

Timothy agreed. 

"That being the case, sir, you could not want a better dog 
than the one I have in mind." 

**He sounds a treasure." 

**He is well feathered down the legs, he has large, speaking 
eyes and a magnificent rudder." 

**I congratulate you. Nelson. Did you want to keep him 
here?" 

"Well, sir, a dog couldn't want a better home." 

"Nor a better master!" 

Nelson looked rather embarrassed. He took off his helmet 
and with it a good deal of his authority. 

"As to that, sir, I was coming to that. The dog would not, 
in a manner of speaking, be mine." 

"Oh, I see. Whose would it be?" 

Nelson looked down with a kind of indulgent severity at 
Timothy, as at someone who has unwittingly transgressed a 
bye-law. "Well, sir — if it was agreeable to you, the dog would 
be yours." 

Timothy glanced at Nelson, whose face, under the helmet 
which he had now replaced, was utterly impassive. Wimbush 
had turned away and with almost unbearable delicacy of feeling 
was staring at a celery trench. 

"It's most kind of you," said Timothy at last, "but I'm not 
sure that I want a dog." 

Both Nelson and Wimbush contrived to give the impression 
that Timothy had uttered a blasphemy but that they were too 
much men of the world to be shocked by it. Wimbush was the 
first to speak. 

"We thought he'd be a companion for you," he said. 

Timothy did not know how to reply. He was not fond of 
dogs and did not understand them. At the same time he was 
touched by the men's thought for him, and reflected that 



THE BOAT 293 

sometimes other people knew what was best for one. 

"Most people like a dog," went on Wimbush. He spoke in a 
neutral, take-it-or-leave-it voice, as though Timothy's uncon- 
ventionality was his own affair, and must be respected. "A 
dog's not like a human being. More reliable. More affectionate, 
too." 

*'Yes," put in Nelson. ''There's many a motorist as wouldn't 
scruple, if you understand me, to run over a human being, 
pulls up short when they see a dog in the road." 
Timothy reflected upon this. 

"And of course a dog like the one I've been speaking of is a 
great help socially. I mean," Nelson took himself up, "he would 
be among chaps of our sort. People who would never think of 
speaking to you if they saw you by yourself, would speak to 
you fast enough if you had a dog with you." 

A memory stirred in Timothy's mind. Had not the Rector 
said something to the same effect — that a dog inspired con- 
fidence and that people quickly made friends with him, and so 
with his owner? In spite of all the rebuffs, Timothy had not 
quite relinquished the hope that one day, one day, he might 
be a welcome guest on the lawn at Lawnflete. 

Nelson realized that he was weakening. "You wouldn't have 
to be ashamed of him, quite the contrary," he said eagerly. 
"His rudder alone! Why he's got strength enough in that rudder 
to break a man's arm, I shouldn't wonder." He looked for 
confirmation to Wimbush, who nodded gravely several times. 
"And he's a grand water dog, you need never be afraid of 
upsetting when you went out in your boat. He'd bring you to 
shore whether you liked it or not." 
Timothy sniffed. 

"Of course I'm not pressing you to have him." Nelson 
suddenly adopted an air of judicial detachment. "I want you to 
feel quite free. Only in my view it's an opportunity too good to 
miss, especially as the cinimal would be, in a kind of way, a 
present." 

"A present!" exclaimed Timothy, dog-like pricking up his 
ears. 

"Well, sir, in view of your kindness in giving me the use of 
your garage my friend would be prepared to make a substantial 



294 THE BOAT 

reduction in the price. To you, sir, it would be fifteen guineas, 
not a penny more." 

''Fifteen guineas doesn't seem much for such a big dog," said 
Timothy, wanly. 

Simultaneously Wimbush and the policeman came a step 
nearer and closed in on Timothy. The effect was of a gigantic 
convergence, an irresistible pincer-movement. 

''You'd never regret it, sir," said Nelson, his breath beginning 
to come rather fast. "It's the chance of a lifetime. Buster'll 
be a godsend to you. He'll never leave you, night or day." 

Timothy succumbed. 

The next morning Nelson appeared in the stable yard, 
leading Buster. But that is putting the cart before the horse, for 
it was Buster who was leading Nelson ; nor, in all the course of 
their relationship did Timothy ever know the order reversed. 
His face set in horizontal lines of outraged majesty. Nelson 
leaned back, making an obtuse angle with his straining charge 
such as the handle makes with the Plough in the celestial 
constellation. 

"You see how he pulls, sir," gasped Nelson. "He's only a 
youngster yet, he'll soon tone down." 

Meanwhile Buster had reached Timothy. Getting on to his 
hind legs he put his front paws on Timothy's chest, and his 
long, pink, sicklc'shaped tongue wavered towards Timothy's 
face. His eyes wore an expression of humorous craftiness. 

"Geddown!" shouted Nelson, jerking at the lead and up- 
setting Buster's balance so that he nearly fell over backwards. 
Panting and triumphant the dog gazed hungrily at Timothy as 
though longing to repeat the assault. "He doesn't do that to 
everyone," Nelson apologised. "If you weren't the owner here, 
sir, he'd know in a minute. He wouldn't let you touch him. He 
mightn't bite at first but he would if you meddled with him." 
"Hey, Buster!" he cried, moving towards the dog with a 
threatening attitude. "Go for him, boy! Seize him! Lay hold 
of him!" Buster watched the policeman closely, as he danced 
ponderously round him, anxious to do the right thing but not 
knowing what it was. Meanwhile Beatrice and Efiie, having 
heard the noise, had come out and were standing by the back 



THE BOAT 295 

door; and Wimbush, also wondering what the hubbub was 
about, had strolled in from the garden and was watching 
Nelson's provocative caperings with amusement. 

**Go on, boy!" Nelson cried. ''Fetch him out! Worry 
him!" It seemed he could only be referring to Timothy, who 
drew back a step and looked round nervously. Buster put his 
head down, arched his back, and barked excitedly. It was not a 
proper bark, but an adolescent imitation, with no hostility in 
it; he wagged his flail4ike tail, and his eyes looked round 
anxiously for approval. 

''Good boy, good boy," said Nelson, satisfied with this 
exhibition of ferocity. "You see, sir," he said, turning to 
Timothy, "he's got the makings of a first-rate house-dog. Only 
you mustn't be too soft with him, or else he'll take advantage. 
Now just hold his lead and walk him about a bit, to get the feel 
of him, as I might say." 

Timothy's fingers closed on the leather thong and Buster at 
once started off, ventre-a-terre, swaying on his big soft paws, 
tugging at the leash and snorting every now and then as the 
pressure on his collar threatened to throttle him. He seemed to 
know at once where he wanted to go and to think it did not 
matter what happened to his body, provided his head got there. 
In this case his destination proved to be the chestnut tree in the 
middle of the stable yard. Having reached it he stopped, with an 
air of absorption so intense it seemed as though he would 
never move again. Then he slowly made a circuit of the trunk, 
examining it with a strictly professional and slightly sceptical 
air which sat oddly on his youthful features. Satisfied with his 
inspection he started off again, this time in the direction of the 
house. Timothy's arm felt as if it must be pulled out of its 
socket, and his expression became as intent and agonized as the 
dog's. Looking up gingerly he saw the four spectators, who were 
now all standing together, smiling broadly and giving an impres- 
sion of complete harmony, all defensiveness put aside, all 
differences sunk. 

Nelson strode up and, with negligent condescension, patted 
the straining Buster who, diverted from his purpose by this 
overture, sat down, mouth ajar, wagged his tail, panted self- 
consciously and put on the absurd and conciliating grin of an 



296 THE BOAT 

elderly stage-favourite taking a curtain-call. Everyone, Timothy 
included, beamed back at him. 

'The gentleman that owns him calls him Felix," announced 
Nelson, ''because his dam was a Felixstowe bitch." Timothy 
winced at this plain-speaking, but Nelson didn't notice and went 
on, "But Felix isn't a proper name for a dog, so I call him 
Buster. 'Tis more manly-like." 

"Oh," said Timothy. "But I much prefer his old name. I 
shall call him Felix." 

Nelson looked pained. 

"But you won't spoil him, will you, sir?" he pleaded 
earnestly, as if Timothy's preference for the sissy name was 
evidence of such intention. "'Tis wonderful the way that dog 
has taken to you. I thought he'd be more stand-ojSish. But you 
mustn't think the worse of him for being so friendly. As I 
stated just now he's only a puppy. He'll soon grow out of 
that." 

Felix, however, did not grow out of it, and remained to the 
last unable to distinguish between friend and foe, since he 
regarded everyone as a friend. Unable and perhaps unwilling. 
He did not want to be a watch-dog. He hated being alone, and 
sometimes if Beatrice (for she early became his favourite) was 
out of the house he would yelp in a strangled and heart-broken 
manner; but if anyone came to the door he was only too glad, 
and however suspicious the intruder looked, gave him a warm 
but noiseless welcome. 

At first he was made to sleep in the stable, but whether from 
fright or loneliness he howled so dismally that Beatrice, 
grumbling, brought him in and let him sleep in her room. He 
was a milksop in some ways, in spite of his great strength, and 
Timothy was content he should remain so. 

Felix's advent had a curiously pacifying effect on the Old 
Rectory. Alone of its inmates he never suffered from nervous 
exasperation. He was totally free from resentfulness. He 
never harboured malice. If you patted him while he was eating 
a bone he would growl, but that was only, Timothy decided, 
because he thought he ought to. He was far from obedient, and 
would ignore any word of command uttered at a distance of 



THE BOAT 297 

more than thirty yards, pretending not to hear it. He was never 
quite reliable with chickens, and having passed them by a 
dozen times with an expression of lofty disdain would, on the 
thirteenth, launch a treacherous attack, and send them flying 
amid a flurry of squawks. It was no use beating him, for any 
blow that would have hurt him would have been beyond the 
strength of an ordinary mortal to inflict; and such a blow if 
delivered, would have deserved the attention of the Society for 
the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Appeals to his better 
nature were more effective, for though like love he was too 
young to know what conscience is, he did not like being called a 
bad dog, and would reduce his native exuberance to a mere 
glimmer, like a motorist diminishing his headlights. But it was 
hard to tell how far he was really penitent, for his habitual 
expression, when not animated by the promise of a walk or 
food or other distraction, was one of deep and suffering sadness. 
Or he would wearily lift his great head from his paws with a 
look of mingled nobility and boredom that wrung the be- 
holder's heart. 

But his patience was inexhaustible, and the moment that one 
invited his co-operation it was forthcoming in unstinted 
measure. He responded to the smallest attention. A single pat 
would set the ponderous machinery of his affection working. 
He would slowly rise, and after a few preliminary rubs and 
nudges to establish contact and turn on the current he would, 
in pantomime, devour the image of the beloved object. He had 
in an almost literal sense an appetite for affection; whatever 
it was he wanted from one — those effluences that his quivering 
tongue detected — seemed to go straight down his throat. He 
would also take into his mouth whatever parts of one's clothing 
he fancied, and fondly bite one's wrists; but these gestures were 
only the emblems of his love, the concrete symbols of his 
intense emotional craving. Intense and insatiable; for Beatrice 
was quite right when she said, "He can't have too much of 
that." He also obviously experienced great pleasure in throwing 
his weight about; he liked to be supported; he would lean 
against the tottering object of his devotion and heavily relax. 
Most people, surfeited by his caresses, soon got angry w^th him. 
Then Felix's sense of humour would assert itself. Wearing a 



298 THE BOAT 

smile high up on his face that showed he knew quite well what 
a bore he was being, he would redouble his efforts, artfully- 
planting his large rump, whence his strength sprang, with 
lighthouse-like solidity between his victim and the door. 

Such was Felix; a golden nature, as golden and soft as his 
own coat. As Wimbush (who took a less professional view of 
the functions of dogs than Nelson did) frequently remarked, 
*'He hasn't got an ounce of vice in him anywhere." Timothy was 
soon wrapped up in him. At first the responsibility of owning 
Felix weighed on him. He was afraid that the dog would fall ill, 
and then what would he do ? Happily Beatrice and Effie, no less 
than Nelson and Wimbush, though their prescriptions did not 
always agree, knew exactly what to do if Felix should fall ill. 
Indeed, they seemed to hope he would, so ready were they with 
suggestions as to how his condition might be remedied. 
Actually Felix never did fall ill; his health was as inexhaustible 
as his benevolence, and Timothy, from regarding him as 
practically an invalid, soon came to think of him as immortal. 

Outside and in the village Felix did not immediately have the 
social success that Timothy expected and that the Rector and 
Nelson had confidently foretold. One of the qualities in Felix 
that Timothy always deplored was a lack of diffidence amount- 
ing to brazenness. Welcoming himself, he expected always to 
be welcome. He rushed up to everyone he met, and im- 
mediately enveloped them in the boisterous expressions of his 
goodwill. Especially was he attracted by children, hesitant 
bicyclists, and ladies with shopping-bags. Such was the 
vehemence of his onslaught that occasionally his objectives 
would topple over even before he reached them. This delighted 
Felix, for, prostrate and helpless, a human being was much less 
able to resist his advances; but the victims, crying, picking 
themselves up, or dusting themselves as the case might be, were 
far from pleased, and Timothy was involved in innumerable 
apologies. He could see that they had every right to grumble, 
at the same time he thought them very unreasonable to be 
afraid of Felix, who advertized his good intentions with every 
movement of his body. Soon, whenever Felix appeared, there 
was a marked tendency on the part of the weaker members of 
the community to scatter and seek shelter ; perambulators were 



THE BOAT 299 

Stopped and flushed matrons, gathering their toddlers round 
them Hke angry hens, prepared to stem Felix's advance. Felix 
would return from these encounters with a jaunty and self- 
important air which soon turned to bewilderment when 
Timothy, loudly but half-heartedly, began to scold and threaten 
him. 

So instead of the triumphal progress down the village street 
that Timothy had pictured, the congratulations on his new 
acquisition, the pattings and strokings, their joint effect was 
that of two bullies, gauleiters almost, from whom everyone 
fled in terror. Timothy was exceedingly disappointed, for he 
believed that all English people were fond of dogs. Reluctantly 
he put Felix on a lead, after which things went better, and quite 
a few of the congratulations he had hoped for began to come in. 
Timothy was by now a passionate partisan of Felix and inclined 
to regulate his feelings for his neighbours by the way they 
treated him. Love me, love my dog. Highest in the scale came 
those who had welcomed Felix in his unfettered state. But had 
he examined himself he would have had to admit that Felix 
now meant more to him than any of them. 

So the autumn passed into winter, and returning spring 
found Timothy still a dog-lover. To love Felix was a simple 
matter, he made no conditions, he had no moods, and on his 
broad golden brow, sometimes furrowed with puppy-wrinkles, 
it was easy to imagine Cupid enthroned — not Cupid twanging 
his bow, not the naughty boy who engineers heart-breaks, but 
Cupid asleep, with a liquid gleam of dark bright eye showing in 
the cleft of his deep soft eye-lids. Every now and then he would 
stretch and sigh, to make himself still more comfortable, and 
his expression would register an even deeper contentment; it 
seemed as though waking he consciously enjoyed the bliss of 
sleep. His big clumsy paws were stretched towards the blaze, 
whose warmth he received full on his fringed chest and 
stomach; he gave an effect of relaxation and defencelessness 
that was most touching. Watching him Timothy almost held his 
breath, so wanton did it seem to disturb his quietude. 

Beyond a casual reference in a letter to Vera, which she 
had not taken up, Timothy haei told no one outside the village 



300 THE BOAT 

of his new playmate. He did not want to share Felix even in 
thought. Esther was fond of dogs ; her house was littered with 
them. Nondescript animals for the most part, they were indis- 
pensable to the routine of life at Langton Place. They were 
valued, they were looked after, they were taken for walks, they 
were sometimes made the subject of conversation. But they 
were not regarded as an end in themselves, they were not 
idolized ; on the contrary, it was their function to contribute to 
the full realization of that ideal of country life which, perhaps 
unknown to herself, coloured Esther's thoughts; she kept dogs 
because country life required it. What country life consisted in, 
she would have been at a loss to define, but she knew what its 
constituents were and their relative importance. Not to have 
kept dogs would have been eccentric; but not, perhaps, so 
eccentric as to keep one dog and lavish upon it, in secret, all the 
emotional output of one's nature. To keep dogs was a sign of 
balanced behaviour and united you with people of like tastes ; 
it was equally a gesture of conforming and an affirmation of 
standards that must be conformed to. By having dogs Esther 
did not cut herself off from other people, she proclaimed her 
solidarity with them. 

Timothy would have liked Felix to be a bond with the people 
of Upton, but it had turned out differently, and instead of 
being a link with he had become a substitute for human 
affection. 

But Felix did not mind that, indeed he liked it, and Timothy's 
great wish was to please him. 

So he did not write a doggy letter to Esther, nor, though he 
often thought he would, to Magda. A trivial thing prevented 
him. Magda, too, had had many dogs in her time, and Timothy 
in his unregenerate, non-dog days, had sometimes criticized 
them. They were small, shrinking, shivering, repulsive creatures, 
griffons or griffonesque; objects of luxury, wearing coats, and 
often to be mistaken for a scarf or a muff or something she had 
left lying about. When they barked it was an impotent, dry 
sound, like some very old person coughing. Magda called them 
angelic and divine and said she doted on them ; but their point 
was that they looked peculiar, and decorative in a smart, outre 
way. She might be fond of them but there was no room in 



THE BOAT 301 

them to be fond of her ; the great warm heart of dogdom did not 
beat in them; and if Timothy went into raptures over Felix's 
too obvious quaUties, his silky coat, his speaking eyes, his 
noble head, his propeller-like tail, and above all his inordinate 
craving to be liked by everybody — Magda would only yawn and 
declare that he was altogether too roly-poly and honest-to-God 
for her. She might even call him sentimental. And Timothy was 
too sensitive about Felix to run the risk of hearing him dis- 
paraged, even from a distance. 

Nor did he confide in Tyro. One of his earliest bonds with 
Tyro had been their dislike of dogs ; to admit that he now liked 
them would be an apostasy at least as estranging as Tyro's 
conversion to humanism. Timothy could not bring himself to 
do it; besides, he did not want to. Since their recent controversy 
he had felt quite unable to tune in to Tyro's new wave-length. 

So, a topic too secret, if not too sacred to be mentioned, the 
slumbering Felix had come between Timothy and his friends. 
To stroke Felix was easier, far easier, than to write a letter ; and 
to receive his caresses a more satisfying and a much more 
immediate reward than the replies which, when at last they came, 
so often contained something critical, or wounding, or out of 
key with his present mood. His relations with Felix needed no 
adaptability on his part. 

He reviewed his progress since his arrival at Upton. Un- 
questionably he had shrunk. The Timothy of 1939 was — let us 
not be guilty of false modesty — quite a considerable person. 
In addition to a small but genuine reputation, in two countries, 
as a writer of articles which combined cultured observation with 
sensibility and sentiment, he had a wide circle of friends whom, 
for the purposes of correspondence (for it is sheer cruelty to 
expect a professional man of letters to write regularly to more) 
he had reduced to three. To them he could unburden himself; 
with them he could discuss every kind of topic. He was in their 
lives as they were in his. But neither his writing nor his friends 
absorbed the energy and out-thrust of his nature. Oh no. It 
demanded other outlets. It desired to permeate the village of 
Upton, to leave its mark on everybody in the district, from the 
lowest to the highest. Everybody should become, in the 
happiest and most rewarding manner, Timothy-conscious. 



302 THE BOAT 

Their faces should Ught up at the mention of his name, and his 
at theirs, in a mutual conflagration. But popularity has its 
dangers; in a climate of universal appreciation the soul grows 
fat and stagnant. The body, too. Both forget that effort is the 
law of life. Timothy had been aware of this. The body's wants 
were easily supplied — it needed exercise and rest. The needs of 
the soul were more elusive — and never more elusive than when 
harnessed to the attainmient of a specific end. The quest of the 
Holy Grail, the search for the Philosopher's Stone or the North 
West Passage — were they examples that gave encouragement? 
Better choose some nameless endeavour, the pure spirit of 
striving with no goal attached ; for if there was no goal, there 
could be no failure. The territory thus acquired would be a 
No Man's Land, indefinite but infinitely far-reaching, enlarging 
the confines of one's life beyond its previous boundaries; the 
Roman Empire at its greatest extent. 

The Boat. . . . 

But, of course, if someone had failed, through no fault of 
his own, to realize these ideals, if the irrigation scheme had 
broken down, and vast contiguous tracts, at the very door of 
the Old Rectory, remained high and dry and unfertilized by 
one's benevolent intentions, channels were still left in Vv'hich 
desire could run, and run more fiercely than if they had been 
required to cover a wider space. They might not be the channels 
one would have chosen, they might even run into a Dead Sea, 
on the shores of which no vegetation flourished. But still they 
carried away the waste products of the system, they drained it 
if they did not benefit others, they deepened and consolidated 
and hemmed in the sense of self which, spread out over a wider 
field, would have been dispersed and diluted, and perhaps 
lost. ... A smaller Timothy, without an empire, but solid and 
compact, and able to move more freely in his own sphere now 
that he had given up the idea of subduing, or converting, the 
barbarians. Indeed he must be all the stronger for having no 
truck with them, for losing touch, indeed, with the outlying 
dependencies which had formed his original kingdom, before 
he came to Upton. Not to have to adapt himself, to mingle his 
life with theirs, to recognize their rival realities, their in- 
dependent sovereignties, always so difiicult to reconcile with 



THE BOAT 303 

one's own! To allow them to become dream-like, pasteboard, 
two-dimensional, a mere blackcloth to the drama of one's life, 
played on its stage alone, to an empty auditorium, a one-man 
show, with perhaps a chorus off-stage, but with no other actors 
that counted, besides himself . . . ! 

Yes, but there was one, and Timothy glanced down tenderly 
at Felix on the hearth-rug, the only survivor of his grandiose 
schemes of absorption and assimilation, the sole receiving- 
station that still accepted the Timothean message, the one true 
heart ! All the other lines of advance might be closed, but did it 
really matter, was it disgraceful, was it almost a tragedy (for 
Timothy's rather optimistic review of his Uptonian regress had 
not been without its disagreeable moments) to be what he, 
Timothy, now was, dwindled, shrunk to a kind of nothing, if 
still, on the hearth-rug, warming himself, breathing softly and 
contentedly, lay a being obviously very high up in the moral 
scale, who owed everything to Timothy and was prepared at 
every moment to acknowledge the debt in the most ungrudging 
and wholehearted manner? Could one be said to have failed 
completely if one loved and was loved ? 

Felix stirred and looked up. Recollection seemed to dawn in 
his eyes, and struggle to shape itself into a purpose. He rose to 
his feet and stretched, gave Timothy a somewhat guilty look, 
w^alked stiffly to the door with drooping tail, and whined. 

It had happened before, two or three times, quite recently. 
Timothy rose and opened the door and followed Felix across 
the hall and down the passage. At the kitchen door Felix 
stopped and listened attentively. Again Timothy opened it for 
him. Beatrice and Effie were sitting by the fire. "Here's FelLx," 
Timothy briefly announced. 

"Why, what do you want?" asked Beatrice. She got up. 
"Come along, I've got something for you." But she had nothing 
for Timothy, who returned pensively to the drawing-room. 

Soon these desertions became a regular occurrence, and not 
only in the evenings. Whenever Felix had given Timothy more 
than a few minutes of his company he grew restless and asked to 
be let out. The lure of the kitchen, of Beatrice and tlie 
"something" she had ready, was proving too strong for hirn, 
One day Timothy tackled her about it, 



304 THE BOAT 

"Felix has quite fallen in love with you, Beatrice," he said. 

Beatrice's face stiffened and she looked away from him. 

''It isn't only that, sir," she said, elliptically, "though I 
suppose a dog has his feelings like the rest of us. It's Eflie." 

"Oh, Effie?" 

"Yes, sir. Effie says she can't stand it any longer." 

Timothy's heart sank. 

"Oh, what can't she stand, Beatrice?" 

"Him leaving all his hairs on the drawing-room carpet, sir. 
It's a day's work getting them up." 

Felix certainly did shed his coat more freely than most dogs, 
and it was Effie who had to clean up after him, not Timothy. 
But all the same — ! 

"Doesn't he leave them in the kitchen, too?" he said, trying 
to make the question sound unprovocative. 

"The kitchen has a stone floor, sir, that's why it plays up our 
feet. But it doesn't collect the hair like a carpet does." 

"I suppose not." 

"Effie can't stand it, sir, and it makes her cough, too. Some 
of those hairs get right down her throat and into her chest and 
curl themselves into knots. It isn't healthy. A big dog like that 
doesn't want to be in the room." 

"He used to want to be," said Timothy, deliberately mis- 
understanding her. 

Beatrice gave him a quelling look. 

"A person's health is more important, sir, than a dumb 
animal." 



THE DO AT 305 



CHAPTER XX 

It was only when Felix's visits had ceased altogether that 
Timothy remembered his present to Desiree Lampard. After 
the fiasco he had not wanted to unpack it ; he had put the hat- 
box away, out of sight. Suddenly a vision of the bowl slid into 
his emptying mind, glowing with a soft lustre. Unpacking it was 
such an excitement that he scarcely felt a twinge when, deep in 
the heart of the bowl, covered with shavings, he found the 
visiting-card which still carried his best wishes. 

Standing in the middle of a low round table, to ensure the 
utmost visibility, its unageing glory lit the room. It was a proud 
object and Timothy did not presume to be familiar with it. 
Indeed, it did not repay familiarity of any kind. Not that 
it was exactly stand-offish. But it represented the tran- 
scendent; it was perfection's ambassador; it demanded homage, 
not love, and homage is a tribute that must not be paid too 
often, for it is subject to a law of diminishing return. The 
uplifting effect of humility ceases to operate if it becomes a 
habit; even the Emperor of China, the Son of Heaven himself, 
only required a limited number of kow-tows. And like a royalty 
it must not be seen too often; for prestige is a sensitive plant 
that shrivels with thoughtless or intemperate usage. 
*So am I as the rich whose blessed key 
Can bring him to his sweet uplocked treasure, 
The which he will not every hour survey, 
For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure.' 

Having been warned, Timothy took care not to look at his 
bowl until he had wanted to at least half a dozen times. 

But though the treasure repelled familiarity, it did not refuse 
intimacy. Even a queen may have lovers; and Timothy some- 
times, and with due formality and inward preparation, allowed 
himself to approach the bowl and finger its exquisite surface, 
cold and hard as marble, but of a smoothness so remarkable 
that it seemed to give new meaning to the word. 

How different was this contact from the feel of Felix's warm 



306 THE BOAT 

yielding coat, how much rarer and more refined (if one thought 
of comparing them) the pleasure that it gave! Those uncon^ 
sidered pats and smacks and strokings, the expressions of a 
casual and unregulated regard, given without respect and 
received without dignity — how could they compete, as examples 
of civilized behaviour, as gestures worthy of the spirit, with the 
finger-tip caress, the bated breath, the absolute stillness and 
concentration of mood demanded by communion with the 
sang-de-boeuf bowl ! How compare the grandeur implicit in this 
noble and most fragile object (dating, who knows? from the 
Ming dynasty), the centuries stored up in it, the garnered 
worship, the aesthetic tradition distilled from the beauty-loving 
aspirations of millions — with the commonplace allure of good, 
kind, clumsy Felix, a dog without pedigree or distinction, a 
transitory bundle of flesh, not always very agreeable to the nose, 
who would be forgotten dust in a dozen years ? 

And idiotic as it was, Timothy could not help feeling 
aggrieved with Felix for his defection, his preference for the 
kitchen and the company of Beatrice, to the drawing-room, and 
the surely more manifold delights of Timothy's society. No 
doubt it was only cupboard love on Felix's part, but it was 
disappointing and undignified, conduct more befitting a human 
being than a dog. 

So that when Timothy came across Felix in the stable-yard 
or in the garden, or saw him holding court in the kitchen, his 
new kingdom, he seldom stopped to speak to him and some- 
times did not even look at him, a calculated slight which 
Beatrice, though not Felix, was quick to notice. 

A favourite has no friends. Someone else had observed that 
Timothy had cooled towards the golden retriever. Felix was not 
a good gardener. He believed himself to be welcome everywhere 
and could not understand why Wimbush should object when 
he gambolled on the flower-beds, leaving footprints which, so 
Wimbush said, were so large they might have been made by an 
elephant. That Wimbush had been the prime mover in bringing 
Felix to the Old Rectory failed to soften his resentment, and the 
fact that he had become Beatrice's plaything greatly aggra- 
vated it. Not, it must be admitted, that he was unfair to the 
dog. He continued to say that Felix had not an ounce of vice in 



THE BOAT 307 

him. But whereas before, at the time when Timothy followed 
Felix about with doting looks, he contented himself with 
admonishing Felix for his misdeeds, he now gave him an 
occasional cuff and once or twice took a stick to him. 

He did not do this without first consulting Timothy. 

"Should you mind if I give him a wallop now and again, 
sir? It doesn't matter so much now, but come the summer, you 
won't get a bloom from those delphiniums. They'll be flat, same 
as if they'd been bombed." 

*'Well, so long as you don't really hurt him," said Timothy. 
He blushed for himself, but Wimbush laughed. 

"You can't hurt him, sir, his skin's much too thick." 

Felix took the beatings in good part for, as Wimbush said, 
it was next to impossible to hurt him and in any case the 
gardener did not want to. He merely wanted to warn him off 
the flower-beds and in this he was beginning to be successful, 
for Felix was far from stupid and the desire to please went to 
the root of his character. 

It happened, however, that Beatrice witnessed one of these 
chastisements and her ever-smouldering animosity against the 
gardener flamed up anew. She at once sought out Timothy and 
complained to him. 

"Wimbush'll be killing Felix, one of these days." 

But Timothy remembered Beatrice's former charge against 
the gardener and could not take this one seriously. 

"Oh, I'm sure you're exaggerating, Beatrice. Besides, dogs 
have to be trained, just as children have. It's not fair to Wim- 
bush to have him running wild over the garden. He '5 rather 
disobedient, you know." 

He saw the storm gathering on Beatrice's brow as she said, 
"You wouldn't have said that this time last week. You were all 
over him then." 

Timothy reddened and said crossly, "I wish you wouldn't 
speak to me like that, Beatrice. He's only a dog after all." 

Beatrice trembled and her colour came and went. 

"He's more like a Christian than some people I could name," 
she said. Timothy knew she was referring to Wimbush, but it 
sounded as if she meant him, and the rudeness of her manner 
stung him. 



308 THE BOAT 

"I've a good mind to get rid of the dog," he said brutally. 
"He's not worth the trouble and expense. How would you like 
that?" 

"I'd give in my — " began Beatrice. But the operative word 
was never uttered. She burst into tears and went out sobbing. 

Timothy found himself staring at the bull's blood bowl. 
What a blessing that it could not make scenes and answer him 
back and thoroughly upset him; that it did not appeal to any 
human feeling at all except the highest — the love of beauty. 
Could one live on that? he wondered. Could one make oneself 
independent of human contacts, stop one's ears against the 
sirens' song, as did the sailors in the Odyssey? Left to them- 
selves, unheeded and unheeding, the emotions would atrophy 
and petrify, leaving the consciousness as hard and gem-like as 
the bowl was ; and one would go through the motions of living, 
an automaton, saving one's spiritual energy for one's reactions 
as a connoisseur, just as some people keep theirs for business 
or sport or football pools. The age was an age of specialists; 
one must be selective, the devotee of a single activity, and not 
slop over on to life, like a bucketful of water thrown over a 
backyard; and limit one's responses to one's fellows to the 
"Fares please" and occasional "thank-you's" of a bus- 
conductor. How grateful people were, at bottom, to the 
conductor's impersonality, to his functional, unemotional 
visitations, which did not exclude the cracking of a joke, and 
which required of them nothing but a token action, a routine 
payment of what was due — and due to the company, a vast 
anonymous body, not to him. 

Fairness, justice, those were the valuable qualities; and 
they could only be attained and administered by the absolute 
suppression of the personal, by a companion state of mind to 
that in which one appreciates a work of art. 

He had been less than just to Beatrice, perhaps; certainly to 
Felix. It was not sentimental to think of justice in connection 
with a dog; even beasts must be with justice slain — not that 
there was any question of killing Felix, but of course his flower- 
bed antics had to be put a stop to — rather a shame in a way, for 
he always looked particularly pleased with himself and certain 
of approval when he was sending the earth flying. Such a good 



THE BOAT 309 

game! Such a good dog! Digging for victory! And the truth was, 
he wouldn't have been so dihgent in digging if Timothy hadn't, 
just lately, discontinued his habit of taking him for walks. Felix 
was really a terrible nuisance on a walk. Apart from his pen- 
chant for bov/ling over babies, and when leashed, tugging at 
the lead until one's arm was stiff, he could not be relied on to 
behave properly on the open hill-sides. He would suddenly 
vanish to reappear in the distance as a golden feather, moving 
at high speed against wall or hedge or sky-line. Timothy's voice 
would get hoarse with shouting; while Felix pretended that it 
was just another of those peewits, which he loved to chase. . . . 
And then there was the threat, vague but omnipresent, of the 
"coverts," where he had no business at all to be. How could one 
keep up a clear, harmonious flow of thought when every minute 
one had to be telling Felix not to do something ? 

No, it was no fun taking him for a walk, and Timothy was 
relieved when Felix's treachery and ingratitude gave him an 
excuse for dropping them. But obviously he must have exercise, 
whether he was a good dog or not, it was only fair, besides he 
would otherwise fall ill. Lead in hand, Timothy went to look 
for him. The maids had finished their luncheon but Beatrice's 
eyes were still red. 

Felix, who was also finishing his dinner, jumped up de- 
lightedly and his tail smacked against the table-legs. 

''I'm going to give him another chance, Beatrice," Timothy 
said, forbearingly. It had never really entered his head to part 
with Felix, but he had many grudges against Beatrice to pay off, 
and Felix was obviously a weak place in her armour. He was 
rewarded by seeing in her eyes a gleam of fear, which she 
immediately suppressed. 

**If only he would leave the flower-beds alone," Timothy 
went on, still talking to her. "We may have to put you on a 
chain, Felix, if you will do that." 

Felix acknowledged this remark by jumping up and trying to 
lick Timothy's face. It always pleased him to be spoken to, and 
Timothy did not sound angry. But Beatrice's brow darkened. 

"The man doesn't keep the borders all tliat neat," she said. 
"He calls himself a gardener, but that rose-bed under the 
kitchen window's a disgrace. I never saw such a crop o{ dande- 



310 THE BOAT 

lions in all my life." Timothy tried to placate her. 

'^You're right," he said. ''It is a bit untidy. I must remind 
him about it. Well, come on, Felix." 

On the hillside, away from Beatrice, away from flower-beds, 
away from the explosive atmosphere of the Old Rectory, 
Timothy's affection for the dog came back. For the moment 
Felix seemed to have turned over a new leaf. He put away 
childish things and adopted a strictly professional air. Perhaps 
he imagined himself at a shooting pargy ; beaters and other dogs 
surrounded him. He was being ordered this way and that by 
stern-faced men with guns. There was not a moment to lose; 
his reputation as a retriever was at stake. Backwards and 
forwards he galloped, with his lilting, rocking-horse action, 
examining with the rapt attention of a botanist this or that 
grassy phenomenon. Until he had satisfied himself that the 
secret was solved, nothing would move him from the spot. 
Then suddenly, as though stung by a wasp, he would leap aside 
with a supple flourish of his outflung body, and be off. 

Timothy had taken Felix to a distant field which he believed 
to be free of cattle, sheep, pheasants, anything that Felix might 
be blamed for chasing. Hitherto, they had always had it to 
themselves, but to-day someone was walking on the sky-line, 
a woman clearly, though by the freedom of her stride she 
might have been a man. Timothy's first reaction was to call 
Felix ; but he was already outside the radius of obedience, racing 
towards his quarry. Would she turn and flee? Timothy set off 
at a rapid walk, breaking at times into a run, and rehearsing 
to himself the well-worn phrases in which abject apology 
struggled with suppressed irritation that anyone could be so 
silly as to be afraid of Felix. With a sinking heart he saw Felix 
execute a few vertical bounds, but the lady held her ground 
without flinching, and when Timothy came up Felix was 
trotting round her, plucking playfully at her elbows, as his 
manner was, but not attempting to knock her down. 

''That's a nice dog you've got," she said, before Timothy 
could speak. 

Where had he heard that voice before? But before trying to 
place her he must say his piece. 

"I'm so sorry he came up to you like that. I'v^e tried to break 



THE BOAT 311 

him of the habit but he will do it. He's only young you know, 
and does it out of friendliness and high spirits. He wouldn't 
hurt anybody, but they're not to know that. Felix, you bad 
dog." 

Felix withdrew a pace or two, panted like a steam-engine and 
tried to look ashamed. 

''Don't worry yourself," the lady said. "I'm not afraid of 
dogs and I know the breed. They're all the same." 

Liking her at once for liking Felix, Timothy still felt he could 
not let this implied criticism of him pass unchallenged, for 
Timothy was a one-dog man, though Felix was far from being 
a one-man dog. 

''Oh, but he has a lot of personality. He isn't really like other 
dogs. For instance, he ..." In vain Timothy searched his mind 
for ways in which Felix was 'different'. "He scarcely ever barks," 
he concluded, lamely. 

"Retrievers don't bark much, in my experience," said the 
lady, and a shutter of indifference came down over her face. 
She was wearing dark glasses, so large and opaque that they hid 
her eyes. Where had Timothy seen it before, that rather long 
oval, the full mouth and the proud, short nose? Her complexion 
was yellowish: it was the only thing about her that looked 
unhealthy. He wondered if she was older than he was. 

"I was looking for someone," she said abruptly. "A tall girl, 
about my height, and rather like me. We were to have met here. 
You haven't seen her?" 

Timothy told her he had seen no one. 

"It's odd," she said. "I expected her yesterday, too. I've been 
expecting her for some time. This is a place we used often to 
come to, for picnics. She knows it quite well, she couldn't have 
missed her way." A look of worry came into her face, which she 
banished immediately. 

"Excuse me," Timothy interrupted her, "I must just call 
Felix." Felix, who had taken advantage of their conversation 
to retreat to a strategic distance, came galloping up with an air of 
invincible innocence. 

"Good dog," said Timothy, and turned to the lady. "I'm so 
sorry. If I did happen to see her, shall I tell her that someone is 
looking for her?" 



312 THE BOAT 

**Yes, her mother/' said the lady. After a moment's pause 
she added, "No, don't say that. It might be a shock to her. 
Just say I am waiting for her at the usual place." 

Timothy was puzzled. ''She will know who it is?" The 
worried look came back. 

"Of course she will. She must. When all's said and done, we 
still have the same name. You know who I am, don't you?" 

In that moment Timothy did know, but he couldn't keep the 
tremor out of his voice as he said, "Yes, Mrs. Lampard." 

"I rather hoped you didn't. This place is teeming with spies, 
Germans some of them, I shouldn't wonder. There's a man 
living in Upton — he's been a perfect plague to me. Nothing 
has gone right since he came. She knew him. She wanted me to 
ask him to her wedding. When I refused, she cried. But he 
was no good to her. Half our troubles came from him." 

Timothy said nothing. 

"If you see her," Mrs. Lampard went on, "ask her to come 
back to me. I've asked her, of course, but she might pay more 
attention to a stranger. She's joined the A.T.S. or the Wrens 
or one of those things. So unnecessary! She says she's happy, 
but how can she be happy away from me? With a shiny nose 
and thick stockings, too? Don't say I'm her mother; say I'm 
someone with a message from him. She'll know who it is." 

"I will, Mrs. Lampard." 

She went on in a sharper tone. 

"And for God's sake don't tell her what a bore I've become, 
or it might put her off. They used to say we were like Mme. de 
S6vign6 and her daughter. I always felt sorry for Fran^oise de 
Grignan with her doting mother. But the French are so 
emotional. I've only written Ddsiree two letters since she left 
me. Do you know why?" 

Timothy said he didn't. 

"Because they open them. That's how it all started — with 
someone reading a letter. I wish I knew who it was, or how they 
got hold of it." 

Timothy was silent. 

"They won't come to any good, whoever they are." She 
stopped and raised her hand. "Look, isn't that someone 
coming?" But Felix had already seen the distant figure and was 



THE BOAT 313 

Streaking towards it. 

'Telix! Felix!" 

Obedient this time, Felix came trotting back. ''She wouldn't 
mind!" exclaimed Mrs. Lampard. "She Hkes dogs, too. Look, 
can you see who it is? I'm sure it must be her." She became 
extremely agitated. 'Terhaps you'd better go now." 

Timothy strained his eyes. 

"I'm sure it's her," Mrs. Lampard repeated. "I couldn't be 
mistaken. It's her walk, exactly. Why don't you go away? I 
asked you to." 

Confused and miserable, Timothy said, "I will go away, Mrs. 
Lampard. But I don't think it's her, I don't think it's your 
daughter." 

"Why not? Why not? What makes you say so? Do you know 
my daughter?" 

Timothy mumbled something about having seen her once. 

"You've seen her? Why didn't you tell me? You're keeping 
something from me. You're ..." She looked at him searchingly. 
"You're trespassing, do you know that? Tell me your name." 

Timothy hesitated. The strange woman was quite near to 
them now; he could see the grey stuff of her clothes and her 
kind but resolute expression. Felix trotted up to her sedately 
with his tail in the air. 

"Look, Mrs. Lampard, here's someone who wants to speak 
to you," said Timothy. 

Petulantly she turned away from him. 

"They always know where to find me," she grumbled with an 
angry sigh. "I shall have to look for another place. Only then 
she won't know where I am. I don't want to speak to her in 
front of strangers — I hate the whole pack of them." 

The nurse raised her eyebrows slightly to Timothy and said, 
"Come along now, Mrs. Lampard. It's time for you to go in." 

Mrs. Lampard said to Timothy, "You see I live under orders 
now." She shrugged her shoulders, gave a little laugh, and said, 
"But I'm afraid you don't know each other. How remiss of me. 
Nurse Pynsent, this is Mr. . . . Mr. ..." She waited for Timothy 
to supply the name. An amused light came into her eyes. "Isn't 
it odd. Nurse, but he doesn't want us to know his name. I 
wonder why. But I know it— I can tell you!" 



314 THE BOAT 

She looked mockingly at Timothy and said, "Shall I break 
the news?" 

He stared at her, his blood turning to ice. 

'It's Casson, Mr. Timothy Casson." 

She chuckled, a low delicious gurgle of amusement, and 
added, with a smile that wrinkled downwards from the corners 
of her mouth, ''Aren't I right, Mr. Casson?" 

"No," said Timothy firmly. "I'm afraid you're mistaken, 
Mrs. Lampard. My name is Peabody, Adolphus Peabody." 

His dignified, affronted stare outfaced her increduHty. 
"Peabody," she repeated dreamily. "What a curious name. It 
suits you, I think. But I'm sorry you're not Mr. Casson; there 
was a great deal I wanted to say to him." 

Suddenly her manner seemed to detach itself from the whole 
scene, the entire proceedings. 

"Goodbye, Mr. Peabody. Remember what I said." Barely 
acknowledging his bow she moved away towards the hill-top, 
with the nurse following her, a pace or two behind. 

"Do you know who that was?" said Timothy to Felix, when 
the lady of the manor and her escort had passed out of earshot. 
"It was Mrs. Randall Lampard, and she's quite, quite mad." 

But Felix was not interested. Indeed the whole interview, 
which held him on an invisible leash and made excessive 
demands on his conscience, had been extremely tedious to him. 
He celebrated his freedom with longer and more daring 
escapades amid the gorse and bracken, not disdaining, in his 
appetite for pleasure, to snap at the brimstone butterflies 
tempted out by the late Spring sunshine. Following his 
technique of gradual withdrawal he reappeared from time to 
time, but at longer intervals and a greater distance. Finally he 
disappeared altogether. Timothy did not worry about him, for 
the shadow of the hawk, that might have punished his venture* 
someness, had passed away from the lonely hillside. Mrs. 
Lampard had other things to occupy her than the preservation 
of her game. 

Musing upon her career, and his own association with it, 
Timothy had ample opportunity for tasting the sweets of 
revenge. But his stomach was not robust enough for them; his 



THE BOAT 315 

imagination kept following her back to Welshgate Hall where, 
amid shrouded furniture and diminished daylight, she lived a 
life that was also shrouded and diminished. Try as he would 
to absolve himself from all responsibility for her fate, he could 
not help feeling that it added a darker shadow to his own ; and 
he was glad to see the roofs and chimney-pots of Upton, 
embedded in their fresh spring greenery, with the sentinel 
poplars keeping guard, the river gleaming in the meadows 
before the thick woods claimed it, and the garden and stable* 
yard of the Old Rectory — an asylum in the best sense of the 
word. 



316 THE BOAT 



CHAPTER XXI 

But he could not dismiss Mrs. Lampard from his mind, she 
haunted his pillow, and on the morrow he sought out Wim- 
bush, feeling sure that the gardener could supply some gossip. 

Wimbush did not lift his head as Timothy came along the 
path that he was hoeing. There was nothing surprising in that, 
for he always became more deeply absorbed in his work at 
Timothy's approach. But this morning the start and the broad 
smile of welcome were missing, and he let Timothy pass by 
without looking up. 

Feeling like someone whose bluff has been called, Timothy 
turned back. 

''Good morning, Wimbush, not a bad morning, but how 
different from last May." 

''Different in more ways than one," Wimbush grunted, still 
without lifting his head. 

Puzzled by his uncordial tone Timothy tried to count their 
blessings. 

"I don't think the situation is any worse, the world situation, 
I mean," he finished up. 

Usually Wimbush was very ready to give his opinion on 
world affairs, so his answer, when at last it came, was all the 
more discouraging. 

"What happens in the world outside doesn't affect us much 
in Upton, I reckon." 

Momentarily and for the sake of argument Timothy 
descended from his ivory tower. 

"Oh, but Wimbush, it does. Quite a lot of Upton people 
have relations living in London and other towns, as well as at 
the war. Think of the relief to them, being able to sleep soundly 
at night." 

But again the result was disappointing. 

"Bombs never did worry me," said Wimbush, "nor bom- 
bardments either. There's been a lot too much fuss made about 
these blitzes, as they call them in the papers. 'Tis just a word for 



THE BOAT 317 

a few bombs dropping." 

**Oh, but Wimbush," persisted Timothy, ''when you think of 
the autuinn of last year, and the danger we were in then, of 
invasion and so on, and then the winter, with so many women 
and children being killed — you must agree that things are better 
now." 

'Terhaps they are, perhaps they're not," said Wimbush. 
"In my opinion 'twas the Home Guard, and not all those 
Beaufighters and such, that kept the Jerries from these shores." 
The indifference in his voice was edged with reproof, and 
Timothy was troubled. 

"Still, we have much to be thankful for," he struggled on. 
To find a want of sympathetic accord, amounting almost to 
opposition, in Wimbush was a new experience. "England, this 
country, seems to be saved for the time being. And what 
terrible misfortunes some people have!" He lowered his 
voice. "I met Mrs. Lampard yesterday, Wimbush." 

"Oh?" 

The "oh" was as clearly against him as a railway-signal, but 
Timothy decided to ignore it. Still in a voice artificially hushed 
he went on. "You know what's happened to her?" 

Wimbush shrugged his shoulders and attacked a dandelion, 
whose head came off, leaving a stump with a milky scar. "They 
do say she's gone potty." 

"Yes, isn't it terrible? Do you know how it happened?" 

"All along of that daughter of hers not marrying that Duck, 
they say," said Wimbush. "Good lord, if people go mad for a 
little thing like that, they can't have much to worry about." 

His reasoning was not clear to Timothy but his lack of 
sympathy with Mrs. Lampard was; and there was the added 
suggestion, painful because of the animosity behind it, that 
Timothy himself might go mad, and welcome, if having nothing 
to worry about was a sufficient cause. 

Timothy could not bring himself to let the subject drop, 
however. "I'm sorry for the daughter, too," he said. 

"I shouldn't waste my sorrow on such as her," Wimbush 
advised him. "'Tisn't as if he had been killed, which might 
happen to any of us, and nobody be the worse." 

Again the vindictive tone. Timothy had never known 



318 THE BOAT 

Wimbush in such a difficult mood. Shifting his ground he said, 
with a feeble attempt at jocularity, ''Well, anyhow everything 
in the garden's lovely. I never saw it looking better than it is." 
He glanced about him in exaggerated appreciation. 

'That's not what you said yesterday," said Wimbush 
grimly. 

Timothy was completely at a loss. "Yesterday? I didn't see 
you yesterday." 

"No, sir, but you saw someone else and they told me." 

"Who?" 

"The other one in the kitchen." 

For the first time Wimbush looked up and Timothy realized 
how angry he was. "Beatrice?" 

Wimbush nodded without speaking. 

Timothy tried to remember, but his encounter with Mrs. 
Lampard had wiped his memory clean of what happened just 
before. "What did I say?" 

"You said the rose-bed under the kitchen window was a 
disgrace." Wimbush spat the words out as if it hurt him to 
utter them. 

"Oh no I didn't, Wimbush. I said. ... I said. ... I may 
have said it was a bit untidy." 

"Why didn't you say it to me, sir?" 

"I. . .1 meant to, Wimbush. I hope you haven't taken it in 
bad part?" 

Wimbush straightened himself, and his anger altered the 
shape of his face. 

"I'm just about fed up, sir. I'm giving in my notice now and 
you won't see me again after a week come Saturday." 

"Oh, Wimbush, you mustn't say that. I ... I didn't really 
mean it. It ... it just slipped out. Untidy doesn't mean any- 
thing. We're all of us untidy," Timothy pleaded. 

"Disgrace does, sir, and that was the word used." Wimbush 
was trembling. "If you'll excuse me, sir, we won't say anything 
more about it. I didn't expect it from you, sir, I really didn't." 
He went back to his hoeing. 

Shaken and miserable, Timothy wandered back to the house. 
How had he given Beatrice this opportunity for mischief- 
making? He remembered how; thinking it was the best way of 



THE BOAT 319 

placating her, he had criticized Wimbush ; and she had struck 
where she knew it would hurt Wimbush most, in his pride. To 
have been the means of wounding Wimbush, with whom he 
had never had an instant's disagreement, made him feel quite 
sick — his best friend in the place, next to Mrs. Purbright. 

Should he consult her? No, he had already given her too 
many exhibitions, exhibitionisms, of spiritual nudity; she must 
be as shy as he was of these immodest displays. Better, braver, 
to beard Beatrice and give her a terrific talking-to. But he was in 
a weak position ; all she had done was to repeat as his something 
she had said herself, and something to which he had, sub- 
stantially, agreed. Disgrace, that fatal word. She was too old 
for him to try to reform, and besides, psychologists could find 
a dozen excuses, reasons almost, for her acting as she had. 

He passed her in the passage with a scowl and sank down in a 
chair, thinking of his existence at Upton without Wimbush's 
support, thinking of their long and happy relationship, ter- 
minated by a word, in an explosion of rudeness and unkind- 
ness; and thinking, too, it must be admitted, of the black 
picture Wimbush would paint of him in the village, who had 
always been his staunches t advocate. 

A gleam like a sunset broke through his musings, parting 
the clouds. The red bowl at any rate had no quarrel with him; 
its pride was not of the kind that would take umbrage. The 
expression of the potter's passion for his art, it dwelt in a 
region of crystallized achievement, of emotional stability sealed 
against change. It fortified his spirit, and he found comfort in 
the thought that when his eyes had turned to dust it would still 
be there, an abiding testimony to the joy men once found in 
their work, if never in their dealings with each other. 

By the next morning Timothy had persuaded himself that 
Wimbush would have recovered his temper and be ready to 
withdraw his notice, if not to apologize. But he was mistaken. 
The gardener's manner was much less surly, but it was even 
more unyielding. Scores of times, he said, he had been on the 
point of giving in his notice, all owing to that woman ; he had 
only stayed on for Mr. Casson's sake. If only Mr. Casson had 
spoken to him instead of to her ! From Mr. Casson he would 
have accepted any reproof; the wife would bear witness that 



320 THE BOAT 

he was ready to cut off his hand for Mr. Casson. Efiie, she was a 
good girl, he had no complaint against her, but the other one ! 
He shook his head and went on digging. 

It occurred to Timothy to try and enlist Effie's support. 

''See if you can make him change his mind, Efiie. He likes 
you, he said so." 

Efiie's look of unhappiness changed to apprehension. 

*'Oh, I couldn't possibly do that, sir. He might think I wanted 
him to stay." 

"Well, don't you?" 

To his surprise Efiie burst into tears and ran from the room. 

Twice in the next few days Timothy again tried to prevail on 
Wimbush to reconsider his decision, but without avail, 
though the gardener's manner had now regained some of its 
old cordiality. Saturday came and Timothy, with a heavy heart, 
counted out the curious, un-round sum which represented 
Wimbush's wages minus his shcfre of the stamp money, and 
added a parting present. 

It was nearly one o'clock but Wimbush was working away 
as usual, and there was no sign that these few minutes were the 
last that he would spend in Timothy's employ. 

"Well, Wimbush, the ghost walks again." This was Wim- 
bush's own playful metaphor for the ceremony of pay-day. 

Wimbush took the money into his mud-stained fist and 
transferred it to his pocket. 

"And there's this as well." Timothy held out the notes. 

"What's that for, sir?" 

"Just for remembrance and to show there's no ill feeling." 
Wimbush looked away. 

"I couldn't take it, sir, I couldn't really. It would stick in 
my throat." He gave a gulp. 

"Please take it, Wimbush. Don't think it comes from me, if 
you'd rather not. Pretend it's a bonus, or something you picked 
up in the street." Wimbush's face softened, but he still 
hesitated. 

"It doesn't seem fair, sir, not with me leaving you against 
your will, as you might say." 

"Don't leave me, then." 

Wimbush shook his head. 



THE BOAT 321 

**I couldn't Stay now, sir, not after what's passed. I should 
never hear the last of it. I should be a laughing-stock. I couldn't 
hold my head up in the village if I let her down-trample me like 
that. I shouldn't have any heart in my work, either, if I knew she 
was going to reap the benefit." 

"You take her too seriously, Wimbush," said Timothy, 
feeling that he had nothing to lose now by plain-speaking. 
"She's only a sour, sad woman with a bitter tongue. You 
shouldn't pay any attention to her. I don't," he added, 
untruthfully. 

"'Tis all very well for you to say that, sir," said Wimbush. 
"You can speak to her distant-like through the veil of authority. 
But how would you like it if she came up to you in a nasty way 
and said I had said something about you discreditable which I 
hadn't really said, she said it, but I had said something, which 
would make it all the worse?" 

"I expect I should be annoyed," Timothy admitted. 

"I'm sure you would, sir. And you haven't got your position 
to think of, like I have." 

"No, Wimbush." 

"But of course I never should have said anything discreditable 
of you, sir, you understand that, it was only to drive my 
meaning home the plainest way." 

"Yes, I appreciate that, Wimbush." 

"Because I couldn't have wanted a better master, sir, what- 
ever you may think of me." 

Timothy was silent. 

"This is a good job and I'm not saying it isn't. I'm not one 
of those who fly off the handle at a word and I shouldn't now, 
sir, if you'd said whatever you did say to me instead of her." 

They were back at the starting-place again. 

"I'm very sorry about that, Wimbush, I've told you so.'' 

"Yes, sir, and there's many as wouldn't say as much, which is 
what I tell them when they ask me how I've stuck it so long 
here where a she-cat couldn't hardly breathe." Wimbush was 
working himself up again. His tawny eyes flashed and his frame 
dilated. The air around them seemed to hold its breath and 
far away in the distance the church clock struck one. 

"Time's up," said Timothy, forcing a smile. 



322 THE BOAT 

Wimbush sighed and the lines of tension relaxed and his 
large frame seemed to sag. 

* 'We'll be seeing each other, sir." 

"Yes, of course. Where will you be working now, Wim- 
bush?" 

''Mrs. Lampard's agent have been looking for a water-bailiff, 
and of course he offered it to me as the most likely m.an." 

"I congratulate you," said Timothy. "It sounds a good job. 
Perhaps we shall meet on the river." 

Wimbush laughed and slapped his thigh. "That's a good one, 
sir. We can always trust you for a laugh, in or out of season. 
There'll be a lot of things won't seem so funny, when you're 
not there." 

"It does take two to make a joke," said Timothy. 

Wimbush laughed again. Then his face grew serious. 

"The new chap, sir, he may not see the funny side like I do." 

Timothy shrugged his shoulders. 

"'Tisn't everyone as would, not with her around." The 
gardener's manner changed. "Some of this gear, sir, belong to 
me. There's a spade, and the scythe, and these clippers — " 

"You must take everything that is yours, Wimbush, of 
course." 

"I only mention it, because Miss Chadwick mightn't re- 
member. There's the padlock on the chicken-house, too, but 
I'll leave that." 

"Thank you very much." 

"That's all I can think of now, but if there should be anything 
else you won't mind if I come and take them with your 
permission?" 

*'0{ course not." 

"Oh, and there's the Dutch hoe and the oil-can. When 
you've been a long time in one place 'tis surprising how things 
mount up." 

"How long is it?" 

"Eight years come Michaelmas. And how much longer do 
you think of staying, sir?" 

"Well, I've got the house for another three and a half years." 

Wimbush whistled. 

"Tis a tidy time." Noticing Timothy's depressed look he 



THE BOAT 323 

added, "But I expect it'll go quick." 

"It would have gone more pleasantly in your company," 
Timothy said. 

"I'm far from denying that, sir," said Wimbush warmly. 
"And it goes for me, too. If anyone had told me a fortnight 
ago that I should be leaving here, why, I'd have knocked the 
words down his throat." 

Timothy could not think of a reply and his eyes strayed down 
to the notes he was still holding in his hand. Wimbush's glance 
followed his. 

"You'd much better take them," Timothy said. "I should, 
in your place." 

"I'm sure you would, sir," said Wimbush, with emphasis, 
"I'm sure you would. That's what makes me hesitate. 'Tisn't 
the way I ordained to go, not by any means, not as a man who 
puts his pride behind his back. But since you wish it, sir, I 
will." 

He pocketed the gratuity and, looking round the garden, 
searched his mind for a suitable comment. 

"If you should ever want me, sir," he said at last, "you know 
where to find me. I can't say fairer than that. I hope you won't 
because it might mean you were in a jam, but you couldn't 
come to anyone better, you know that." Timothy thanked him. 

"I'm not saying I shan't miss you, sir," Wimbush went on, 
as usual making his thoughts fit his words, rather than the other 
way round. "A better gentleman it's never been my privilege to 
serve, alive or dead." 

Timothy's eyes grew moist. 

"Nobody shan't ever say anything else in my hearing," 
Wimbush declared. "And if I had my way I should be here now, 
not somewhere else. Goodbye, sir." He grasped Timothy's 
outstretched hand, held it a moment, and walked off without 
looking back. 

Breaking the news to Miss Chadwick was not the least of 
the evils connected with Wimbush's departure. She was in one 
of her moods of not hearing, and Timothy had to repeat the 
distasteful tidings several times. 

"Believing Wimbush? I've always found him perfectly 

L* 



324 THE BOAT 

truthful, as far as people of bis kind ever are." 

"No, I said leaving. Miss Chadwick. In fact he's left.'* 

'Tm afraid I can't hear what you say. You'll have to speak a 
little more slowly and a good deal more distinctly. You mean 
politically to the Left ? Most of the working classes are, in these 
days, more's the pity, and you yourself — " 

''No, he's left my employment, gone away, hooked it, if 
you will pardon the expression." 

'Tm afraid it's new to me. Hook? I must ask you to trans- 
late." 

"I mean he's taken his departure." 

There was a pause, and then Miss Chadwick said in an 
altered tone. 

''Now I understand. Why didn't you say so before? This is 
serious. Wimbush is a most valuable servant. How did it 
happen?" 

After many false starts and circumlocutions, Timothy 
succeeded in telling her. 

"What an unfortunate affair," said Miss Chadwick, when he 
had finished. Her enunciation was perfect; every syllable rang. 

"You told him to come and see me, I hope?" 

"I'm afraid I forgot to." 

"Naturally I should like to hear the story from his own lips. 
My dear brother was exceedingly attached to him, and so 
was I." 

"And so was I," said Timothy. 

"But not enough to keep him, it seems. Hullo?" 

"I told you how it happened," said Timothy. 

"Of course we all know your cook is a difficult woman. 
Still, it's no use crying over spilt milk. Let's hope the breach is 
only temporary, like so many war measures." 

"You think he'll come back?" 

"When the present emergency is over I'm sure he will. 
He has no quarrel with the Old Rectory. . . . Yes?" 

"The war doesn't look like being over," said Timothy. 

"No. Perhaps we ought not to discuss such subjects on the 
telephone. I hope you are comfortable in other ways, Mr. 
Casson? I'm afraid you live a rather lonely life?" 

"Oh, I have plenty of interests, you know." 



THE BOAT 325 

''The Old Rectory used to be such a centre of social life. 
Friends poured in. There was a continual va-et-vient. I had 
hoped you would carry on the tradition, but now, from outside 
at least, the house has rather a forsaken air. And Wimbush 
leaving, too. ... I had so much confidence in him. I doubt if 
you will be able to replace him, there is such a shortage of 
good gardeners. And of course the garden must be kept up. 
I'm afraid the prospect isn't very rosy for you." 

"Perhaps it would be better if I went away," said Timothy. 
As Miss Chadwick did not answer, he repeated what he had 
said. 

"Thank you, Mr. Casson, but I heard you the first time. No, 
that is quite out of the question. The lease has still more than 
three years to run, and besides you are an ideal tenant." 

"I was afraid you thought I was letting the place down." 

"Oh no, you are a perfect caretaker. From my point of view, 
you understand, it is better that the house should not have 
people tramping through it: there is less wear and tear. I 
couldn't consider any sub-letting, and the lease makes no 
provision for it. No, I am perfectly satisfied. It was you whom I 
felt sorry for." 

"Oh, I shall jog along." 

"But you will try to find another gardener, won't you? A 
garden so soon gets out of hand, especially at this time of year." 

Timothy promised to try. 

"And if you don't succeed," Miss Chadwick wound up, 
"you had better take up gardening yourself. It's very good 
exercise, much better than boating." 

Miss Chadwick's misgivings proved unfounded, for hardly 
had Timothy laid down the receiver which, when she was 
talking through it, had the air of a lethal weapon, than he was 
summoned by a dismal-looking Eflie to interview a prospective 
gardener. He was a sad-eyed sallow little man who seemed 
unable to rise above the worry of the moment; and his favourite 
phrase, which he used several times in the course of the inter* 
view was, 'It makes it so bad for everybody.' From the war dowTi 
to the cigarette shortage, everything he touched on seemed to 
have this effect. But he had unexceptionable credentials from 
his previous employer, and his only reason for wanting to leave 



326 THE BOAT 

Sir Watson Stafford was that the girl there interfered with his 
tools. He said it made it so bad for everybody. Exactly how she 
interfered he did not specify, but Timothy promised it would 
not happen here, and engaged him on the spot — so thankful 
was he to have found a gardener at all. 

Afterwards he regretted his precipitancy, for later in the 
evening two other men offered themselves for the post, both of 
whom were more likely-looking candidates than the defeatist 
Simpson, and both of whom expressed regret at being too late. 
In spite of his disappointment Timothy couldn't help feeling 
pleased that people were forthcoming to take service at the Old 
Rectory, and that it was not, as Miss Chadwick had managed to 
suggest, a place with a hoodoo on it. 

Writing to Vera he told her of Wimbush's departure. He 
did not think it would interest her, but he was obliged to eke 
out endearments with such news as he had. And he thought 
that one aspect of the episode would please her. 

"The new gardener is leaving Sir Watson Stafford to come 
to me, so at least one of the fishing'Snobs will have reason to 
curse the name of Casson.'* 



THE BOAT 327 



CHAPTER XXII 

Felix was in disgrace again. It was the old story; he would 
make a playground of the flower-beds. Simpson's comment 
*it makes it so bad for everybody' was not strictly true, for 
Felix enjoyed it. But it would have to be made bad for him too, 
for, as Timothy told Beatrice, if gardeners started leaving the 
Old Rectory in a procession the place would get a bad name. 
That he was emboldened to speak thus openly to Beatrice 
surprised even Timothy; but since Wimbush had gone her 
manner to her employer had become cordial, almost in- 
gratiating. And she was loud in praise of Simpson : he could do 
no wrong. Had he offered to do Felix grievous bodily harm she 
would no doubt have hated him, for he only enjoyed her 
esteem, whereas Felix possessed her heart. But he didn't; he 
was terrified of the retriever, and Beatrice could easily forgive 
him for that. 

And this was not Felix's only offence. Latterly, perhaps as a 
result of Wimbush' s harsh treatment, he had taken to running 
away. An R.A.F. camp, about seven miles from Upton, seemed 
to have an irresistible attraction for him, and three times they 
had rung up Timothy to fetch him back. The first time Timothy 
went in his car, but he had no petrol for the other journeys and 
had to ride his bicycle. Bicycling with Felix was a tricky 
business, for Felix as usual wanted to help ; moreover he had to 
be kept on a lead, which was known to be cruel. But it was the 
only way of getting him to follow, and Timothy did not mind 
if he was a little out of breath, for it would teach him not to 
run away from a good home and a nice kind master, whose one 
wish was to make everybody comfortable. If Felix took to 
pretending that the Old Rectory was not a happy house it 
would really be too much. Beatrice must have infected him with 
her discontent; he was her creature, almost indistinguishable 
from her; and when he lagged behind, mutely demanding yet 
another breather (for Timothy often got off to let him have a 
rest), Timothy would harden his heart and twitch the lead, half 



328 THE BOAT 

thinking it was Beatrice he had in tow, Beatrice whose loud 
panting was as music to his ears. 

To revenge himself for the loss of Wimbush, Timothy again 
denounced Felix to her and had the satisfaction of seeing all his 
darts go home. The dog was a menace ; he doubted if anyone 
would take an animal with Felix's black record, which Timothy 
could not, in honesty, conceal from an intending purchaser. 
It cost a great deal to feed him, more perhaps than it cost to feed 
a human being. Many slum children had to live on less than 
Felix got. No one would want him if it meant going short 
themselves. Much as he hoped it would not happen, he might 
have to consider putting Felix down. 

So Felix's continuance hung on a hair. It was arranged that 
he should be tied up in the kitchen, and only taken out under 
strict personal supervision. Tiresome as he was, Timothy hated 
to curtail his liberty, for he was now the only member of the 
household who used his life for enjoyment. The rest of them, 
and the rest included Timothy, had let circumstances get the 
upper hand. They could react, but not act. Now Felix would 
join their sad society, for he would be in reaction against his 
chain. 

But Timothy was wrong. Felix's powers of enjoyment were 
too great to be bounded by a chain; indeed he seemed to like 
it and regard it as an adjunct of his importance. At first, when 
his bonds were made of cord, it gave him keen delight to break 
them. A single bound sufficed; and how clever he felt, and 
looked, trotting away with a frayed piece of clothes-line hanging 
from his collar ! Thicker and thicker grew the ropes but they all 
met with the same fate; and Beatrice secretly shared FelLx's 
pride in their destruction. Had she dared she would have 
boasted openly of his prowess. Several chains went the same 
way before a cable could be found stout enough to hold him. 
Now he was securely tethered but he did not seem to mind; 
he gnawed at the cable with an expression of great contentment 
or made it rattle excitingly on the flags of the kitchen floor. 
No other dog could boast of so magnificent an ornament. . . . 

But Effie, it appeared, did not share her friend's affection for 
Felix. She seldom spoke to him or noticed him. She had never 
been a great talker, but now she talked much less, and when 



THE BOAT 329 

Timothy entered the kitchen he felt he was disturbing a silence 
that had endured for days. Once she asked him if he had been 
seeing Mr. Wimbush. Timothy told her yes ; he had run across 
him in the village and they had had quite a chat. He seemed to 
like his new job pretty well but didn't think he would stick to it 
permanently; gardening was his real calling. Effie hesitated and 
then said, ''Do you think he'll come back to us?" 

"I wish he would," said Timothy, "but you know, he can't 
get on with Beatrice." He thought it was better to say it, but the 
light faded from Efiie's face and she looked so fragile that he felt 
concerned for her. "You don't get out enough," he said. "You 
ought to go for a walk sometimes instead of always to the 
cinema with Beatrice." 

Again she hesitated. "We don't go out together now," she 
said. "We haven't been seeing eye to eye just lately." Timothy 
said nothing, and Effie went on as if she couldn't help it. 
"When you saw Mr. Wimbush, sir, did he happen by any 
chance to mention me?" 

Timothy couldn't remember but he at once said "Yes, he 
asked after you very particularly." 

The colour crept back into Effie' s cheeks. "Which day would 
that be, sir?" she asked. Timothy told her. "And about what 
time? And whereabouts did you say it was?" Again she spoke 
as if under compulsion. 

"Just in front of the post-office, I think." 

Her eyes grew distant as though she was fixing them on the 
scene and she said as casually as she could, "I don't suppose 
he's in any special place now — I mean he has the whole ri\'er to 
look after." 

"Yes," said Timothy, "he has the run of it, I suppose." 

Effie thought a moment and said, "It must be very pretty 
down there, below the bridge." 

"I've always heard so," said Timothy. "But it's private 
property. You should ask Wimbush to take you." 

Effie started and her colour came and went. "Oh, I couldn't 
do that, sir, not unless it just happened." 

"Well," said Timothy smiling. "Perhaps it will." He left her, 
uncertain whether he had cheered her up or not. 

Meanwhile, his interests were antiquarian — at least, they took 



330 THE BOAT 

him to antique shops. The Chinese bowl looked lonely: he must 
find kindred objects to keep it company. Not so expensive, of 
course ; he could never again be guilty of such an extravagance, 
especially for himself. Besides, he was jealous of the bowl's 
supremacy; his purchases must be little things, designed to show 
it off, acolytes kneeling at a shrine. In the choice of these it 
would have been natural to consult Mrs. Purbright who had a 
fine taste in such matters ; but he was still shy of her and besides 
he wanted this buying to be a pure act of desire, free from any 
taint of compromise with another's wishes; and if the price 
was more than he could afford (and he knew he ought to save 
money, not spend it) so much the better, he could enjoy the 
delicious loosening of control, like a high dive, the tingling 
split second of recklessness that preceded the purchase. 

Often he could not wait for the parcel to come through the 
usual channels but carried it home in his bicycle-basket, 
bumping dangerously, but more undeniably and effectively his, 
in this first frenzy of ownership, than it would ever be again. 

And so, gradually, the low round table began to be covered 
with a muster of small objects, foothills to the mountain in their 
midst; however many he collected there always seemed to be 
room for one more, and if the pride of possession wore off and 
he no longer thought of the things as extensions of himself, 
they soon began to speak for themselves and assert their own 
individualities, though always with due respect and homage to 
the divinity that towered above them. For the bowl itself 
Timothy began to entertain feelings of reverence almost 
mystical, and he deliberately encouraged himself in this 
idolatry, believing that by cultivating it he could put himself 
beyond any temporal vexation of spirit. 

Returning one evening from an expedition to Swirrelsford, 
where most of his pot-hunting was done, Timothy left his 
parcel in the hall and went up to have a bath, a lustration which 
had become an accepted prelude to the evening ritual of bowl- 
worship. Much of his weariness and preoccupation with less 
important things went down the drain-pipe, and a mood of 
happy expectancy was born. Bounded by the white enamel of the 
bath, and the white shiny tiles above them, his thoughts became 
as hard and glazed and lustrous as the porcelain downstairs. 



THE BOAT 331 

The white soap, the white skin, the white bath towel were 
further reminders that white is the colour of eternity — the 
eternity which china, of all the works of man, comes nearest to 
attaining. Timothy did not go so far as to put on a surplice, but 
he steeped himself in the white idea until he regained the hall 
and the package which, when undone, revealed a little vase 
about six inches high, not white indeed, but as nearly white as 
the Chinese potter cared to aim at. Holding it lovingly, and 
mutely instructing it in the life of praise and adoration that lay 
before it he opened the drawing-room door. But he got no 
further than the threshold, for scattered on the carpet, like the 
fallen petals of a peony, lay all that was left of the bull's-blood 
bowl. 

Afterwards, and it was a crowning irony, Timothy discovered 
that none of the smaller objects on the table had been touched. 
But for the moment all he could do was to stand and stare, and 
then to revolve slowly round the remains, keeping as far away 
from them as he could, like someone suddenly confronted with 
the corpse of his beloved. 

"It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter, it doesn't mattery'' he 
kept repeating, until the slogan became meaningless, but 
gradually the repetition of it calmed him, and he began to 
wonder what he would say to Effie who, he supposed, was 
responsible for the bowl's destruction. Resolutely he rehearsed 
phrases of forgiveness. ''It's quite all right, Effie, anyone might 
have done it, it's bad luck of course, but china will get broken," 
and '* Don't cry, Effie, you couldn't help it, you didn't do it on 
purpose." After a while the words began to awaken in his mind 
echoes of their true meaning and the sense of forgiveness, so 
much sweeter to the forgiver than the forgiven, began to steal 
over him. He found himself going much further. "Really, 
Effie, you have done me a service by breaking the bowl, I was 
becoming too much attached to it," and "Be careful, Effie, when 
you're sweeping up the pieces. You might easily cut yourself." 
When he was satisfied that he had got into a state of mind 
becoming to a person who has lost an object valuable from the 
monetary, but quite worthless from the cosmic standpoint, he 
rang the bell. 

Effie came in with a look of surprised inquiry, shut the door, 



332 THE BOAT 

advanced into the room, and stopped dead, staring horror- 
struck at the Utter on the carpet. 

"Whoever done that?" she said at last, in a voice hardly- 
above a whisper. 

Timothy hadn't bargained for this. All his mental exercises 
had been thrown away. He felt entirely at a loss. 

"You don't know how it happened?" he said, choosing his 
words carefully. 

"I'm sure I don't, sir. If I break anything I always tell. I don't 
know why you should pick on me." 

In spite of himself Timothy felt irritated. 

"I wasn't picking on you, I only asked you if you knew how it 
happened." 

Slightly mollified, Efiie answered with a sniff. 

"I don't know at all, sir. Anything might have done it. It 
might have been the wind." 

"I don't think it could have been the wind. Besides, the 
window's shut." 

"Or it might have just rolled off," said Eflie, at last coming 
nearer, and eyeing the remains with fear and distaste, as if they 
were a bomb that might go off. "You'd be surprised the way 
things roll." 

Timothy admitted that things rolled, but did not think that 
the bowl could have. In his opinion it had been dropped from a 
height, it was broken into so many pieces. 

By now they had lost their superstititious horror of the 
corpse, and were standing right over it. The broken edges of the 
porcelain, which had not felt the air for several hundred years, 
looked startlingly white against the red. 

"I didn't do it," said Effie. "That's all I know about it. And 
it's tempting Providence to leave such valuable things lying 
about. Why, it might have been stolen. It isn't fair — it's asking 
for trouble. It's as though you wanted someone to break it." 

Timothy assured her he did not. "I'm not angry, Effie," he 
said with an effort. "I just want to know how it happened. 
I don't suppose Beatrice has said anything?" 

Effie, who had been teetering sideways, drew herself up. 

"I wouldn't say anything behind Beatrice's back," she said. 
"She wouldn't tell me in any case, she's been funny lately. You 



THE BOAT 333 

must ask her yourself, sir, but she won't stay to be cross- 
questioned like I have. She has too much pride. A human being 
isn't like a bit of china that can't be upset no matter what you 
do to it." And with this ill-chosen simile EfRe withdrew, in all 
the dignity of wounded feelings. 

Little as Timothy relished the prospect of his interview with 
Beatrice, it never occurred to him either that she had not broken 
the bowl or that she would deny having done so. But she did 
most emphatically deny it; she never, she said, went into the 
drawing-room unless expressly summoned; the drawing-room 
was EfEe's department, and what should she be doing there? 
She was bitterly insulted; she said she had never worked in a 
house where such things happened and such accusations were 
made ; she had only seen the bowl two or three times and hardly 
knew what it looked like. They were both perfectly innocent, 
but since Mr. Casson chose to believe that they were both 
guilty they would join together to replace the bowl even if it 
took the last penny of their savings. 

Timothy's exercise in forgiveness was wasted, for there was 
no one to forgive. 

To his surprise neither of the women even offered to give 
notice. Indeed, they never addressed a word to himi and 
only answered, if they answered at all, in monosyllables. And, 
he soon discovered, that they spoke to each other as little as 
they spoke to him. In the kitchen, when he was compelled to 
visit it, absolute silence reigned. The silence lay about the house 
in layers, thicker in some places than in others. Here and there 
it was so dense one seemed to be swimming in it, breasting the 
waves ; elsewhere it merely gave an impression of greater empti- 
ness and space, and a ghostly feeling of recent habitation, as 
though someone who had been in the room had just gone out, 
and left it waiting and expectant. 

And where was Mrs. Burnett? Timothy was not very obser- 
vant, and sometimes days passed without his noticing her 
presence, for she only came in the mornings, and when he did 
see her she was only a bent back and a scrubbing-brush. Now 
he felt he would like to exchange a word with her, for she was 
always ready for a talk. But where was she? He searched the 
house from top to bottom, but there was no charwoman, only 



334 THE BOAT 

Effie on her knees apparently doing the charwoman's work. 

"Efiie," he said, and his voice echoed in the silence like a 
stone striking against the walls of a well, ''what has happened to 
Mrs. Burnett?" 

Efiie's eyebrows registered surprise at Timothy's daring to 
transgress the silence code. Then she staggered to her feet and 
closed her eyes. 

''It's my back," she complained, in a voice hardly above a 
whisper. 

"I'm so sorry. But why are you doing Mrs. Burnett's work, 
Effie?" Timothy persisted. 

Effie turned a blank face, as though the name of Mrs. Burnett 
conveyed nothing to her. 

"She's not here, sir. She's not been here for several days. 
Ever since the vase was broken," she added, rather as though the 
breaking of the vase had been Timothy's culminating offence. 

So that was it. Mrs. Burnett was one of the casualties of the 
vase. Perhaps she thought that Timothy had accused her of 
breaking it. Perhaps she had broken it. Why hadn't he thought 
of asking her? Suddenly he remembered why. 

"But the vase was broken in the afternoon — it was all right 
when I went out after lunch, and Mrs. Burnett only comes in the 
mornings." 

Effie's outraged glance suggested that he had said something 
monstrously unfair. "She said she did not wish to stay." Effie 
clearly wanted him to think that Mrs. Burnett had shared in the 
general disgust over the vase episode; but Timothy was not 
convinced. Perhaps Effie was concealing something. 

"She seemed quite happy before," he ventured, though it 
was incongruous to think of happiness in connection with the 
Old Rectory. 

"Mrs. Burnett was not all what she seemed, sir. She was not 
at all sincere." 

"Oh?" 

"She took no pride in her work and had a very jealous 
disposition." 

"Had she?" 

"Yes, sir, those things had nothing to do with her, they 
weren't part of her work." 



THE BOAT 335 

"What things?" 

"I couldn't mention them to you, sir, I was so upset. She 
interfered, that's all." 

'Terhaps Beatrice could tell me," said Timothy rashly. 
Efiie's thin lips tightened. ''It's no good asking Beatrice, sir. 
Beatrice knows nothing where I am concerned. It's better to 
bury them in the past." 

"I'm afraid I don't understand what you're talking about." 

"No, sir, and for decency, if for no other reason." 

EfEe had adopted Beatrice's most discouraging manner, but 
Timothy's curiosity was aroused. 

"I didn't know she was that kind of woman," he suggested. 
Effie shrugged and spiralled. 

"She wouldn't have looked at the things, sir, if she had been a 
modest woman, much less passed a remark. And in any case it 
wasn't her business." 

"What wasn't?" 

"I have charge of your things, sir, and I hope I look after 
them all right." 

"Indeed you do, Effie. Who says you don't?" Effie's lips 
began to tremble. 

"She did, sir. She made an insinuation about my work." 

"You should have come to me." 

"I couldn't, sir, in a matter of that kind. It wasn't for a 
gentleman to hear." 

Timothy was more than ever intrigued. Perhaps, if he could 
prevent Effie from bursting into tears, he might yet find out 
what Mrs. Burnett had done. 

"I'm quite old, you know, Effie," he said. "I don't suppose I 
should be shocked." 

"It was the impertinence, sir, and the surprise. I couldn't 
help flaring up." 

"Can you remember what she said?" 

"Remember, sir, am I likely to forget? She shouldn't have 
been in the room at all by rights, she ought to have finished it." 

"Yes, but what did she say?" 

"She said she'd only come to fetch her dustpan and brush, 
which she always leaves about, as you must have noticed, sir, 
but I knew better." 



336 THE BOAT 

''Well, there was nothing really rude in that." 

"No, sir, it was what she said afterwards." Again Effie's face 
began to crinkle. 

"And she couldn't really see them properly, only just the — • 
Oh, I can't say it!" 

"Please do. You'll feel better if you tell me." 

Effie spoke as solemnly as if she was taking an oath. 

"She said they ought to go to the wash." 

"What ought to?" 

Effie's manner became extremely agitated. 

"I wouldn't tell you, sir, if you didn't force me to. It was 
your pyjamas." She put her hand to her forehead. 

"But did they?" 

All at once Efiie recovered her poise and her dignity. "No, sir, 
if they had, I should have sent them. It was not for her to pry, 
and I told her so." 

"You were quite right, it wasn't. What did she say?" 

"She answered me back, sir. She's a violent-tempered woman, 
Mrs. Burnett, she's like Beatrice for that. But I gave her as good 
as she got, and as calm as I am now. I said, 'Leave those pyjamas 
to me, please.'" 

"And what did she reply?" 

"I'd rather not say, sir. These village woman have no delicacy 
in such matters. They live all together like animals, so they have 
no respect. She couldn't see any difference between your 
pyjamas and her husband's." 

"Did she say so?" 

"No, but she presumed it. She said she knew more about 
pyjamas than I did." 

"Good heavens!" 

"But I didn't mind her dirty tongue. It was the interference, 
the interference with my work. And criticizing me, too, when 
I was defending your interests. I should have known without 
looking whether they wanted sending to the wash. Of course, 
she was jealous, plain jealous. I just said, 'They're not your 
pyjamas. . . .'" 

"Quite right." 

"'And I'll thank you not to poke your nose into them.'" 

"Well, I suppose she hadn't quite done that." 



THE BOAT 337 

**No, sir, but to all intents and purposes she had. So she said, 
'Good-day, you won't be seeing me any more,' and flounced 
out, not even taking her dust-pan and brush." Effie's nose 
wrinkled at the remembrance; indignation had dried her tears. 
**So that's why I'm doing her work, sir, though I never said I 
would, and it's too much for me, or for any woman. Beatrice 
should be doing it by rights." 

Dropping on to her knees Effie resumed her scrubbing, with 
a desperate, spasmodic vigour, as if she were trying to scrub 
away from the Old Rectory every trace of Mrs. Burnett. But 
with the closing of the door the harsh sound ceased, and silence 
enfolded the house. This was Effie's swan-song. 

After two or three more days of being deprived of the sound 
of the human voice Timothy grew restive. The house was so 
oppressive that he spent as much time as possible out of doors, 
listening to the cheerful if inarticulate sounds of summer. 
He even went out after dinner and sometimes ventured into the 
Fisherman's Arms, though he was shy of doing that, in case he 
should meet the people who had coupled his name so dis- 
agreeably with Vera's. Her infrequent letters seldom failed to 
remind him of that insult; like the utterances of Hamlet's 
father, they were hollow with injunctions to vengeance. Her 
friends could tell him nothing more of her than he already knew, 
and they were a little reserved with him, which was not to be 
wondered at, for he only frequented them when she was there. 
Though beer did not suit him he would try to feel he was 
enjoying it; seen in the long glass clasping his tankard, he looked 
comfortable, even if he was not. The rustics were always 
welcoming, but he could never exchange more than a few sen^ 
tences with them of the most general character, into which 
nothing more personal than the feeling of goodwill entered. 
He began to wonder if he was losing the power of speech. 
Then, with a timid and self-conscious ''Goodnight all," he 
would creep back, under cover of the late summer twilight, to 
the dark house and the detesting maids, and in silence and 
indigestion betake himself to bed. 

Soon he was driven to try to make a confidant of Simpson. 

"Do they ever speak to you, Simpson?" he asked. 



338 THE BOAT 

"Well, in a manner of speaking, they do," said Simpson 
guardedly. ''That is Beatrice, she still speaks, though not like 
she used to, and the other's voice was always so faint, it don't 
make much difference if she speaks or not. It makes it so bad 
for everybody. I don't know what I should do if I hadn't got the 
wireless." 

The wireless! Timothy had never taken advantage of the 
opportunities of communication that the wireless offered. Now 
he turned it on by the hour, as loud as it would go, and the 
house was resonant with synthetic sound. Often he forgot to 
turn it off, and coming hom.e after an absence of perhaps some 
hours, he would hear a resolute voice booming from the 
drawing-room and imagine for a moment that somebody had 
called. When he got in, the room seemed all the emptier for not 
being silent. 

But listening is not the same thing as talking, nor has it the 
same power of relieving loneliness. Under cover of the radio's 
blare Timothy caught himself talking to himself, a symptom 
that alarmed him, especially as what he said in these soliloquies 
was nearly always of a self-justificatory nature and sometimes 
expressed in the third person. 'Timothy Casson" (he heard) 
"had always wanted to get on well with the inhabitants of 
Upton ; he had made continual demonstrations of goodwill, as 
witness the following instances." (The instances followed, at 
great length.) "It was they, they, who refused his advances and 
cold-shouldered him; and for the inevitable ensuing tragedy 
they alone were to blame." Tragedy? Had he got persecution- 
mania? Surely not, he, he, the popular, hospitable, much- 
loved padrone of the Villa Lucertola ? 

On the banks of the Brenta the maize was ripening again, 
the grapes were swelling, and three visitors from England were 
expected that very evening. What excitement reigned, what 
tireless happy industry! Rooms were turned out, mattresses 
put out into the rain to air. "But surely, Amalia, they will get 
wet! They will be dangerous! The signori will catch a terrible, 
infective cold! Please bring them in, and put them round the 
stove!" 

"But, signore, the air always does good ! A little rain does not 
matter at all! In England, yes, where the air is thick with fog 



THE BOAT 339 

and smoke; but in Italy we have I'aria pura, limpida, and the 
mattresses are all the better for it!" 

More housewifely preparations; bath-mats, soap, towels, 
firewood for the bath, for the water has to be heated in a 
cylinder, by hot air, a long, perilous process, pregnant with 
opportunities for explosion. 

''The signori will take a bath the very moment they arrive?" 

"Well, perhaps not the very moment, Amalia; they may want 
to have a rest first, they will be tired after a night in the train." 

**But, signore, the signori inglesi always want a bath before 
anything else; you have often told us so; there is nothing the 
English hate so much as being dirty!" 

"Well, perhaps, you're right; as soon as they come I'll tell 
them the bath is ready for them." "Va bene, signore," and 
having won her point, she bustles off. 

Darling Amalia, but sometimes, it must be confessed, she is a 
little stubborn. She is so used to ruling the household, as all 
good Italian housewives are, that she has got into the habit of 
ruling Timothy, too. 

But much still remains to be done. The food has all been 
arranged for; that is Amalia's province, and Timothy is only 
too glad to have it taken off his hands. But the drinks, they are 
his concern, the choice of white or red, of a fiasco of Orvieto 
or Chianti (decried by Armando as made-up, fortified wines), 
or the wine of the district, much purer and more wholesome 
(according to Armando) but an acquired taste, sour and rough 
to a palate unaccustomed to it. And here is the vermouth 
and the gin, the gin at which Armando holds up his hands in 
horror: "troppo forte!" — much too strong for the uncorrupted 
constitutions of wine-loving Italians. What a lot of alcoholic 
support these foreigners seem to need! And now for the 
liqueurs. Aurum, yes, Strega yes, good Italian products, gentle 
to the mouth and balm to the stomach. But the heroic travellers 
may also require brandy to revive them. Here is the bottle all 
right, but where is the brandy? Sunk to the very bottom, a 
couple of tablespoonsful at most. Timothy is sure the bottle 
was three parts full when he last looked at it. He summons 
Armando. "But what can have happened to it, Armando?" 
Armando shakes his head and looks blank. "I don't know, sir. 



340 THE BOAT 

None of us have touched it. AmaUa does not drink cognac, nor 
do I. It is much too strong for us; we do not even know the 
taste of it. Perhaps you left the cork out and it evaporated." 
Timothy looks doubtful. * 'Perhaps the rats found it, and drank 
it by dipping their tails in the bottle and then licking them. 
They are intelligent beasts and known to be fond of cognac." 
Timothy laughs. *'But they couldn't put the cork back again, 
could they?" Armando looks grave and shrugs his shoulders. 
"I hope the signore does not suspect . . .?" ''Of course not, 
Armando. Fm sure there is some natural explanation. Perhaps 
in future I had better keep the bottle in my medicine-cupboard, 
in case any of us should feel ill. Brandy is really a medicine." 
Armando is all smiles again. "As the signore wishes. Shall I 
go and buy another bottle from the trattoria?" "I think you 
had better, there is just time." 

"You have been listening to the broadcast of a conversation 
between Mr. Timothy Casson, late of the Villa Lucertola, near 
Venice, and his servants, Amalia and Armando. Mr. Casson 
lived much in Italy during the Fascist regime, and was inclined 
to believe that at any rate the humbler part of the Italian 
population surpassed our own working'classes in such qualities 
as commonsense, honesty and tractability. This little dialogue, 
which is authentic and comes from a well-stored memory, 
shows that Mr. Casson realizes that he has done our people 
an injustice, and is anxious to make amends. You will have to 
look a long time before you find any virtues in a Fascist. 
"Isn't that true, Mr. Casson?" "Yes, I think it is." "And 
you would agree that we must fight to the last drop of our blood 
to extirpate this evil from our midst, as much for their sakes as 
for ours?" "I should." "And you would agree that the only 
good Fascist is a dead Fascist?" "Yes." "Thank you, Mr. 
Casson." 

A tremendous volley of applause greeted Timothy's recanta- 
tion. It died away to a murmur and suddenly swelled to an even 
greater volume than before, as though Timothy was showing 
himself to the audience. Again and again it rose and died away. 
The house vibrated with it; Timothy could almost see tor- 
mented particles of ether slapping against each other. He rolled 
off the bed (for things do roll sometimes) on which he had been 



THE BOAT 341 

having his siesta and went downstairs to turn the wireless off. 
Instantly the cohorts of silence, which had been waiting outside, 
on the roof, under the eaves, pressing against the doors and 
windows, entered and took possession. Unpleasant as the 
clapping had been, the ensuing vacancy was worse, and Timothy 
hurried out of the house into the sunshine. 

In the stable-yard he found Nelson with his car. He often 
dropped in to have a look at it when his duties brought him 
that way. Sometimes he tinkered with it, sometimes he stared 
at it with a bemused expression, much as Timothy used to stare 
at his bowl. Timothy hadn't seen the policeman since before 
the Wimbush episode, and was rather chary of encountering 
him, so many question-marks hovered gnat-like between them. 
And Nelson's assumptions of ignorance were so tactful that it 
was difficult to know where to begin; for everything that 
Timothy said seemed to cause him intense astonishment — 
Not really! You don't say so! — totally at variance with his 
habitual demeanour of imperturbable, unsurprisable 
omniscience. 

''And so Wimbush has gone," Timothy concluded lamely. 
'Tm very sorry." 

*'In view of what you have just stated, sir," said Nelson, 
''Wimbush would seem to have acted hasty. In the story as it 
was told to me, told to me," he repeated with emphasis, "he 
seems to have been subjected to acts of provocation extending 
over a period of many months." 

Timothy agreed that this was so. 

"Sooner or later," he added rancorously, "everyone seems 
to quarrel with Beatrice. It's Effie now." 

Nelson expressed so much sympathy and concern that 
Timothy told him the whole story of the broken bowl, and the 
present unsatisfactory state of affairs. "I really don't know what 
to do," he wound up. "I can't understand why they don't both 
leave." 

"You can't, sir?" said Nelson, with his loftiest air of patron- 
age. "I can." Timothy begged for enlightenment. 

"Well, first of all it's a good place, sir, and they wouldn't 
get a better. And secondly Beatrice wouldn't leave, she's that 
fond of Felix." 



342 T HE BOAT 

*'I see," said Timothy. "But Effie? Efiie isn't fond of Felix, 
and as far I can judge she isn't any longer very fond of Beatrice." 

''There are others she might be attached to," said Nelson, in 
a voice so portentous and mysterious that Timothy exxlaimed, 
''You don't mean me?" 

"It wouldn't be outside Nature if she was," replied Nelson. 
"But I didn't mean you, sir. She doesn't cast her eyes as high as 
that, she looks nearer to the ground." 

Involuntarily Timothy, too, looked down, as though hoping 
to find in the cobbles of the stable-yard a clue to why Effie 
wanted to stay. Nelson enjoyed his bewilderment. 

"Of course if the other party v/as free it might be a different 
story." 

Still Timothy couldn't guess and Nelson said, "We policemen 
don't gossip, otherwise I should tell you it was Wimbush." He 
paused to relish Timothy's astonishment. "Why, it's an open 
secret. She won't leave, sir, not as long as Wimbush is about. 
You can set your mind at rest." 

"But that's just what I can't do," said Timothy, "when they 
won't speak to each other, or to me." 

Nelson straightened himself. 

"Was the bowl an object of value, may I ask?" 

"Well, I gave over seventy pounds for it." 

The policeman whistled. 

"It must have been a very special make of bowl. You could 
purchase a small car for that." 

"It was. Ming, possibly." 

Timothy hoped that Nelson would ask him what Ming was, 
but the policeman seldom asked a question unless it was going 
to cost the questioned some effort to reply. 

"And you think it may have been broken in malice?" 

Timothy explained that he didn't see how otherwise it could 
have been smashed into so many pieces. The table was only a 
foot or so above the floor, and the carpet was thick. It must 
have been thrown down violently, or hit with something hard. 

"Has anyone anything against you, sir?" asked Nelson. 

Timothy thought a long, long while. The whole history of his 
sojourn in Upton began to unroll itself. Yes, plenty of people 
had something against him. But that way madness lies. 



THE BOAT 343 

"Not that I know of, Nelson." 

*'You insured the article, of course?" With the feelings of 
guilt that Nelson's demeanour always engendered, Timothy 
confessed that he had not. 

"That was a mistake, if I may say so, sir. Did you tell them 
that the article was not insured?" 

"Who?" 

"The suspected persons." 

"No, I didn't," said Timothy. "They weren't interested in my 
loss, only in the injury to their own pride." 

He spoke bitterly, but Nelson ignored this intrusion of the 
personal and said thoughtfully: 

"Then they're not to know. If an Insurance Company have 
grounds for suspecting that an object or article of value has 
been damaged in malice, they may send down a representative 
to make inquiries, which being so, a charge may be made. Did 
you preserve the fragments of this ornamental bowl, sir?" 

Timothy said he had. 

"In that case finger-prints could be taken." He looked hard 
at Timothy's hand. "Would it surprise you to learn, sir, that 
many people, especially those of the class in question, object to 
having their finger-prints taken?" 

"I shouldn't like it myself," Timothy admitted. 

"Exactly, sir, and you are an educated gentleman and almost, 
in the matter referred to, an innocent, if I may say so. Those 
of whom the allegations have been made will be much more 
upset, especially if interrogated in the first instance by a man in 
uniform." 

A faint shiver of distaste went through Timothy. 

"What did you think of doing, Nelson?" 

"Well, sir, officially it would be improper for me to do 
anything. But having regard to the suspicions entertained and 
the identical behaviour of the persons concerned, I should not 
stand on etiquette, but entering the kitchen as I am entitled to 
do with your permission and finding the women there, not 
having been notified of my visit, or in any way forewarned, I 
should put before them in the plainest terms die consequences 
likely to ensure from the attitude they are at present adopting." 
Nelson paused, thankful and proud to see daylight through the 



344 THE BOAT 

tunnel of the sentence. 'The impact of a policeman," he went 
on, ''is something you wouldn't understand on the uneducated, 
especially when allegations have been made. To speak frankly 
they get the wind up and let out what under normal circum- 
stances they would keep in." 

Timothy pondered. 

"It's most obliging of you, Nelson. When did you think of 
doing this?" 

Nelson's face lit up. 

'Tm free now, sir, and the women referred to are sitting at 
the kitchen table over their elevenses, though not speaking." 

Timothy glanced through the window. Yes, there they were, 
the unsuspecting suspects, drinking their tea and nursing their 
estrangement. They looked worn and old. He disliked the idea 
of Nelson's shock tactics; he felt doubtful of their legality; he 
had an uneasy feeling that a year ago he would have unhesita- 
tingly declined the policeman's offer. But much had happened 
since then; unsettled scores had mounted up, and justice was 
justice. To discover the culprit would not restore the bowl or 
the world which had been shattered with it; but it would re- 
store, in a small degree, the balance of fair dealing which, 
Timothy thought, was tipping more and more against him. 

"All right. Nelson," he said, almost ungraciously. "You 
go if you want to,^^ He felt much the same as he had when 
telling Wimbush he might punish Felix. 

"Very good, sir," said Nelson, saluting smartly. Tall, blue 
and young, helmeted and ominous as Achilles, he strode in the 
bright sunlight towards the kitchen door. 

"And, so my dear Magda," wrote Timothy, "my experiment 
in the life of the pure aesthetic emotion came to a sad end. I 
don't feel I can take it up again, for, though I know this is a 
weakness, one cannot altogether dissociate in something the 
element that pleases one from the thing itself. They are in- 
separable, I think. I could give you a list of the many qualities in 
you which delight me; but they are only real to me because 
of you. If — absit omen — you died, and I tried to find them in 
other people, or, against all probability, in one other person, 
they wouldn't mean the same to me, because they wouldn't 



THE BOAT 345 

be you. How silly of me to labour this! — what I mean is, I was 
attached to the bowl itself, not only for its beauty, nor because 
it was mine. How I wish that the virtues and graces could be 
appreciated apart from the vehicles that hold them! Then, 
contemplating them, meditating upon them, one could never be 
lonely. But I am lonely, and I long for the act of hospitality 
which has been denied me for so long. And there is no one I 
should like to share it with so much as you. Do come, dear 
Magda, I am sure you could get away just for a week-end. I 
won't hold out any inducements, for there aren't any, only 
my need of you. Here, I get involved in so many barren en- 
tanglements and have such violent revulsions of feeling, all 
about nothing. ..." 

More and more obsessed by what was passing in the kitchen, 
he put down his pen and went out through the french window 
into the garden. The sunshine proved to be a shy, capricious 
blessing, and shorter-lived than one's faith in it. Still, it lit up 
the grass and warmed the flesh, if not the spirit. The place was 
too familiar now for him to take much notice of it ; the magic 
of novelty had worn off, and he no longer felt that the flowers 
bloomed more brightly because his eye rested on them. It was 
Miss Chad wick's garden, not his. He was under contract to 
keep it up for her, not for himself. Even the boathouse, at 
which he glanced in passing, sheltered a stale secret. Was it his 
fault that his visual sense had sickened, and that none of his 
senses served him as they had last year ? Was it his fault that he 
no longer responded to these things and that his inner life, all 
that was left of it, nourished itself on enmity and pain? Surely 
there was some way out, some altar which could still receive 
his offerings ? All his life he had beguiled himself with the mirage 
of a coming fulfilment ; he had no idea what it would be, any 
more than a plant can foretell its flower, but he believed im- 
plicitly in the movement towards fruition. And now it had 
stopped ; the sap no longer rose ; the flowers had withered and 
on the branches hung fruit that was not good to eat. . . . 

Nelson was striding across the lawn towards him, pride in 
his step and triumph in his eye. 

"It's all right, sir," his young voice sang. ''One of them's 
owned up." 



346 THE BOAT 

''Oh which, Nelson?" 

"Beatrice, she done it. Only it was an accident. She was 
holding the ornament up to the light, she said, to see the 
markings better, and it slipped through her fingers. She's a 
tough one, that old girl. I didn't half have a job with her. 
They're all right now, they're both crying their eyes out. 
You won't have any more trouble with them, sir, they'll eat 
out of your hand." 



THE BOAT 347 



CHAPTER XXIII 

Timothy's reaction was one of unmixed relief. He could almost 
see the smoke-cloud of suspicion in which they had all three 
been living pouring out through the windows and rolling away 
over the roof of the Old Rectory, obligingly making off with 
many other, older grievances which had been lurking in its 
holes and corners. A general spring-clean. Even in the garden, 
the air seemed fresher, easier to breathe. Ripe for reconcilia- 
tion, armed anew with forgiveness, he walked towards the 
house. 

It now seemed an easy task to finish his letter to Magda. 
Even their points of difference seemed convenient pegs on 
which to hang his thoughts. He made prodigious efforts to 
meet her views. He said that he was gradually realizing the 
virtues that resided in the proletariat, and coming to a better 
understanding of their point of view. It might not be such 
a bad thing after all, he said, if we were governed by them, for 
their feelings were still direct and natural, not vitiated by 
theories of behaviour. If an instinct of self-preservation made 
them try to cover up their faults, it was after all only an instinct 
of decency, like covering one's body. But they had too much 
conscience not to suffer from the repression, suffer really far 
more than he did, who could interpose between himself and his 
remorse all kinds of alleviating sublimations and rationalisa- 
tions, the infertile offspring begotten upon the intellect by the 
unconscious mind. And when they repented, they repented 
whole-heartedly, they cried their eyes out, whereas his remained 
dry. 

Confiding all this to Magda, he was aware that he was in- 
vesting her with a personality very unlike her own, but did that 
matter? He must tell someone, and if his letter meant nothing 
else to her, it would show her how much he wanted her to 
come. 

Having sealed the envelope he waited, vaguely expecting 
that Beatrice would come in bringing the tearful explanations 



348 THE BOAT 

he was only too anxious to meet half-way. But when an hour 
had passed and she did not come he decided to go in search of 
her. It was nearly lunch-time. 

The maids were sitting in the kitchen, both crying, and no 
preparations were being made for lunch. Felix had his head on 
Beatrice's lap. When Timothy entered he jumped up, dragging 
his chain across the flagstones, and made his usual show of 
welcome. Beatrice and Efiie hardly raised their eyes. Timothy 
did not know what to say but at last he blurted out something 
about being so glad that the mystery of the bowl had been 
cleared up. He was perfectly satisfied, he said, and the matter 
could now be closed. 

Neither of them answered but both got up and began to 
move about the kitchen, Felix following Beatrice with devoted 
eyes, as far as the chain would let him. Embarrassed, Timothy 
began to stroke Felix who at once sat on his feet and leaned 
against him, butting him gently with his head. "Felix seems in 
very good spirits," said Timothy idiotically, trying to stem the 
tide of the dog's affection, which had just reached biting stage. 
**Now, Felix, be careful of my wrist- watch." Efiie went out of 
the room and Timothy said awkwardly, still trying to curb 
Felix's transports, *'He does do credit to you, Beatrice. I think 
he's grown in the last four weeks." Beatrice did not look round, 
but her sobs started afresh. * 'Please don't think any more about 
the bowl," said Timothy. "It's perfectly all right and I quite 
understand your not wanting to tell me before. Look at Felix," 
he went on fatuously, "He doesn't worry about breakages, do 
you, Felix?" Felix, who always liked to be spoken to, grinned 
widely and deeply. His ears went back a quarter of an inch, 
making his expression foolish beyond words. "He is a good 
dog, isn't he?" Timothy said, for Felix liked to be called good, 
and did not, as most Christians would, resent it as a deadly 
insult. "He has found a friend in you, Beatrice. I don't know 
what he'd do without you." But Beatrice wouldn't be drawn, 
and hopeless of breaking her Trappist silence, Timothy left the 
kitchen. 

He found Effie laying the table. 

"I'm afraid Beatrice is taking this very hard, Efiie," he said in 
a low voice. 



THE BOAT 349 

''It's not to be surprised at, sir, when you set the pohcernan 
on us," Effie answered. Her voice trembled but it was a voice, 
and Timothy felt relieved. 

''Well, that was Nelson's idea, I didn't particularly want him 
to. But it's better to have the whole thing cleared up, don't you 
agree? Though I never thought it was you, Effie, you know 
that." 

"He upset us both so terribly," said Effie. "He showed no 
consideration at all, we might have been in the dock. It was 
horrible the way he went at us. You wouldn't believe it, not 
in such a young man." 

"I suppose they get used to talking in that way to people," 
said Timothy. 

"I knew it was something when he came in," said Effie, a 
certain relish creeping into her voice. "He had me crying at 
once, oh it was awful the way his eyes bored into you, just like 
gimblets. Oh, I wonder he could." 

"Still, all's well that ends well," Timothy soothed her. 

"It was wonderful the way Beatrice held out," said Effie. 
"She gave him word for word. I dursn't have, in her place. 
You could see he was a man, without his helmet. That's what 
made it worse. He's so big he seemed to take up all the kitchen. 
Oh, I was glad it wasn't me. Of course, he never laid hands 
on us." 

"I should think not." 

"They do sometimes . . . yc^u read of cases. And his voice 
was awful when he said, 'Do you want your finger-prints 
taken?' That was when Beatrice gave way." 

"If only she'd told us at first, Effie." 

"That's what I said to her, sir. And I shan't ever forgive her. 
She let me suffer in silence. If it hadn't been for him! But it 
was dreadful the way he went at us, two helpless women, for 
Felix is no good. He didn't try to bite him or anything. I still 
hardly know what I'm doing. I said to Beatrice, 'Wasn't it lucky 
I wasn't out, you might have had to face him alone."' Effie 
began to weep again. 

"Please don't cry, Effie." 

"Oh no, sir, I wouldn't have missed it, of course, him being 
so angry and all that, I didn't think such a young man could be, 



350 THE BOAT 

and his buttons flashing. I should have confessed if Beatrice 
hadn't, I couldn't have helped myself." 

'Tm afraid Beatrice doesn't seem very happy," said Timothy. 

''Well, sir, what could you expect? It was one against two." 

Three or four uneasy days passed. Timothy hoped that 
things would settle down, but they didn't; Beatrice remained 
offended, sulky and mute, and Effie also retired behind a cloud 
of silence. Then the letter arrived. The scrap of lined paper 
bore no address or date, but the postmark on the envelope was 
Swirrelsford. 

Sir, 

I think you ought to know it wasn't Beatrice Kinghorn that 
broke your piece of property nor Effie either but someone else 
who won't tell, not even if you call a policeman. 

From Someone who wishes fair play for all. 

Timothy was puzzled by the letter itself and still more by the 
question of how to treat it. He was heartily tired of the subject 
of the bowl and would have gladly let it drop, but the re- 
opening of the mystery fretted him and he thought that both 
the women were still labouring under a sense of wrong. Like a 
relapse in an illness from which one believes one has recovered, 
it found him with impaired resistance, and all the more sus- 
ceptible to disappointment. Try as he might to free himself, 
he seemed fated to flounder more deeply in the quick-sands of 
other people's feelings. Far better have no feelings at all, he 
told himself, than waste his time trying to make adjustments 
with the unadjustable. Kant's maxim that every human being 
should be treated as an end in himself was a counsel of per- 
fection, for any human being, so treated, would see to it that 
his requirements were unending. 

Usually one has quite a definite idea, though it may be 
mistaken, of what will happen if one pursues a certain policy. 
Mentally Timothy confronted Beatrice with the letter, but his 
prophetic soul gave him no inkling of what her reaction would 
be. He tried it on Efiie, with the same lack of result. Then, in 
imagination he summoned them both to him, and flashed the 



THE BOAT 351 

letter at them simultaneously. But still nothing happened; 
the situation would not develop, the needle of intuition never 
quivered, it seemed to have lost its propensity for the North. 

Finally he invoked the puissant shade of Nelson, helmet in 
hand, buttons gleaming, and this time the needle did move; 
it rotated wildly through all the points of the compass. Timothy 
took this as a warning not to consult Nelson. 

There remained Mrs. Purbright. Timothy had not overcome 
his shyness with her; he felt for her as one might feel for a 
doctor, or a priest, to whom one has taken some fancied ail- 
ment, or some scruple of conscience, and profiting by the 
consultant's sympathy and readiness to come half way, has so 
overcharged the episode with meaning that it can only after* 
wards be referred to with a smile and a shrug; but meanwhile, 
as on the sands at low water, there remain the marks of the high 
tide, of which each is secretly envious yet ashamed. 

This time, he told himself, the conversation should not 
leave the ground. 

He found Mrs. Purbright, as he had hoped he would, alone. 
She was flushed and agitated and vaguer than usual. Several 
times her mind started out in quest of parallels and parables 
but forgot what it was looking for and returned empty. She 
seemed to be holding him off with small talk. Timothy was not 
prepared for this and rather resented it; it was he, not she, who 
was to keep the conversation earth-bound. At last he said, 
'^You remember my bowl, Mrs. Purbright?" 

"Your bowl, Mr. Casson? I'm sure I do, but remind me." 

Describing it gave Timothy a double pang, one for its loss 
and another for the thought that beauty should be so quickly 
forgotten. 

**Of course, I remember it perfectly." 

But Timothy wasn't sure she did. 

'*Well, it's been broken." A second's pause followed this 
announcement. Then Mrs. Purbright said: 

**Oh, how terrible for you. What a calamity. What a cruel 
loss. I do sympathize." Her glance strayed round the room; it 
was well bowled, over-bowled — one might make a joke about 
that. Every table seemed to bear a bowl, some were upturned 
and carried on their bases other bowls, hour-"lass wise. Con- 



352 THE BOAT 

fronted by so many bowls it seemed frivolous to complain of 
the loss of one. 

''Of course, the loss was nothing," Timothy said, men^ 
daciously. ''It's what happened afterwards that I wanted to tell 
you about. May I?" 

"Please do," Mrs. Purbright murmured. "Perhaps I could 
help. I've had so much experience of mending china." 

Having finished his recital Timothy produced the anonymous 
letter. Long-sighted, Mrs. Purbright held it away from her. 
It looked dirty and germ-laden in her blue-veined, blue-ringed 
hand. She will v/ant a wash afterwards, thought Timothy. 
Mrs. Purbright gave him back the letter with a sigh. 

"Hov/ pathetic, how unhelpful," she said. 

"Can you think of anyone who might have written it?" asked 
Timothy. 

Mrs. Purbright suggested it might have been a friend of 
Beatrice's. 

"Yes, I suppose so," said Timothy. "But it doesn't get us 
any further, does it, and what an awkward position it puts me 
in! How they love to shift the blame on someone else! What 
does the writer of that letter expect me to think? It means that I 
shall now suspect three people instead of two, though who the 
third is I've no idea. What would you do if you were me?" 

"Oh, Mr. Casson" — Mrs. Purbright's face took on a hunted, 
almost agonized look. "Don't appeal to me. Who am I to give 
advice? I tried to advise you once before, do you remember, in a 
certain matter?" 

Timothy nodded. 

"You took it most kindly, with exemplary Christian 
patience, but what a mistake it was ! I mean, to suppose that I 
knew what was best for you! What presumption!" 

"I didn't think so," said Timothy, astonished. "The pity was 
that circumstances made your advice unworkable." 

"They always would," declared Mrs. Purbright. "The only 
thing is to act according to your own sense of the matter." 

"My sense of the matter was to consult you." 

Mrs. Purbright groaned. 

"I deserve it, I deserve it. But, Mr. Casson, let the lesson in 
humility be mine for once. Don't tempt me to be meddlesome. 



THE BOAT 353 

Do you know, I sometimes think you bring out the worst in 
people?" 

*'Do I?" exclaimed Timothy. 

"Yes, somehow with you it is difficult not to give way to 
one's besetting sins. I believe you expect it of us." 

"I'm quite sure I don't," said Timothy, bev/ildered by this 
novel view of his requirements. 

"Where would you be," said Mrs. Purbright suddenly, 
"how would you feel about yourself, if nearly everyone in 
Upton hadn't done something to hurt and mortify you?" 

"I must have notice of that question," Timothy said. He 
thought for a moment, trying to see where the trap lurked, for 
he was sure there was one. "I should be in an altogether more 
comfortable state of mind," he said lamely. 

"Would you?" said Mrs. Purbright, with a hint of scepticism 
in her voice. "Supposing it was you who had prevented Mr. 
Timothy Casson from rowing on the river? Supposing it was 
you who had broken his cherished bowl? Supposing it was you 
who had sulked and refused to speak to him, supposing it was 
you who had written him an anonymous letter?" 

"I should be properly ashamed, I hope," said Timothy, 
waxing indignant at the picture of this monster to whom Mrs. 
Purbright was likening him. 

"Exactly," said Mrs. Purbright. "With all our faults and 
tiresomeness you must allow us this — we haven't made you feel 
ashamied." 

So that was the trap and he had fallen into it. Timothy 
pondered over the implications of Mrs. Purbright's inquisition. 
A figure emerged very well pleased with himself, timid and 
resentful; swollen with vanity at the idea of other people's 
failings, feeding his self-righteousness on his awareness of their 
sins, indeed, like an agent-provocateur, prompting and drawing 
out those sins, so that he might seem the more virtuous by 
comparison. 

"I don't see why you say Sve', Mrs. Purbright," he said, 
peevishly. "You haven't hurt or mortified me. Why do you 
include yourself with those who have — if they have?" 

She did not answer at once, and he saw that he had puzzled 
her. 



354 THE BOAT 

*'Oh, Mr. Casson," she said at length. ''But are we not all 
at fault?" A suggestion of her husband's pulpit utterance crept 
into her voice. ''What right have I to say that I am not the worst 
of sinners?" 

"You have every right," Timothy said crossly. "And I don't 
think it's fair that you should enrol yourself with my . . . my 
enemies, if you like, so as to make it harder for me to attack 
them." 

"Attack them?" said Ivlrs. Pur bright, wonderingly. 
"Enemies? I didn't say enemies, I said sinners. Indeed, I hope 
we are not enemies. Or do you think they are the same thing?" 

Another trap. Perhaps he did think that enemies and sinners 
were the same thing. But he was determined to dislodge Mrs. 
Purbright from her stronghold of sinnerdom, even if the 
conversation had to leave the ground and be fought out in the 
air. 

"It is possible to excel, isn't it?" he demanded. 

"Certainly," agreed Mrs. Purbright, surprised. 

"And if you were, say, Paderewski or Tilden, it would be 
generally acknowledged that you played the piano, or lawn 
tennis, better than most people?" 

"Very true." 

"And if you played them better than other people you would, 
being an intelligent person, know that you did?" 

"I believe that the great executants are notoriously vain," 
said Mrs. Purbright. 

"Yes, but vanity apart, would not their pre-eminence be a 
fact, that could not be gainsaid?" 

"Even great reputations in the arts are at the mercy of 
fashion." 

"Yes, but not the greatest. The greatest are above criticism; 
they do not abide our question. And are not the virtuosi, the 
champions, the aces, sustained and confirmed in their supreme 
acy, by a conviction, every time they exercise their art, that they 
are better at it than other people?" 

"They may be," said Mrs. Purbright. "I don't know. I could 
never play lawn tennis, or the piano. I was always a duffer." 

Timothy swept this aside. 

"And you would not blame them for knowing they were 



THE BOAT 355 

better?" 

"No." 

**Or for saying so, if asked, since it would be an affectation, as 
well as a lie, to deny an obvious truth?" 

"No," said Mrs. Purbright. "That is what you want me to 
say, isn't it?" She looked anxiously at Timothy and her breath 
came quickly. 

"Mrs. Purbright," said Timothy, with all the impressiveness 
he could muster, "when you walk down the village street and 
see three people I will call X, Y and Z, three people who do the 
village no credit, and are known not to, when you see them and 
recall all the trouble they have given, the ruined homes, the 
heartbreaks, the suicides — the' (Timothy curbed his imagina- 
tion) 'the . . . the sorrow and tragedy they have caused, and 
when you remember as you must, Mrs. Purbright, you must, 
let me jog your memory — the acts of benevolence, small and 
great, the unending solicitude for the welfare of other people, 
even latecomers to the village, who have no claim on you, when 
you remember the words of gratitude you have listened to, the 
letters of thanks you have received, when you hear the inarti- 
culate buzz of praise and appreciation which starts up at the 
mention of your name — " Timothy took a breath — "do you not 
think yourself better than those three?" 

Mrs. Purbright looked away. 

"I should say, there but for the grace of God ..." 

"No!" cried Timothy passionately, and he thumped the arm 
of the sofa. "You must never say that — it is a betrayal of the 
cause of goodness, a gross, vote-catching piece of humbug! 
What would you think if Paderewski, when the applause was 
over, came to the front of the platform and said, 'Ladies and 
gentlemen, you clap, but any school-girl could have played that 
piece as well as I did. Do not mortify and humiliate yourselves, 
my dear friends, by thinking I play better than you do. I am the 
worst of players.' He fixed his eyes sternly on Mrs. Purbright. 
"Would you be impressed by such a declaration? Would you 
not say that, apart from being a liar, he was pandering to the 
worst instincts of his audience, their envy of his talent, their 
fear of feeling small in the presence of his greatness, their desire 
to be confirmed in their mediocrity?" 

M* 



356 THE BOAT 

**But you said they were applauding him!" cried Mrs. 
Pur bright. 

''Only because it is the fashion, and not to applaud would 
seem superior, as though one possessed more critical judgment 
than one's neighbour. And anyhow it was just a paltry hand- 
clapping. But do you know what happened when he had made 
his speech belittling his talent? The whole audience rose to its 
feet and cheered and stormed the platform and carried him 
shoulder-high into the nearest bar, singing. Tor he's a jolly 
good fellow' — because you see, they knew that the tyranny of 
standards was over and the right to do everything badly had at 
last been recognised." 

Mrs. Purbright smiled; she thought that Timothy's mood 
had spent itself in this vision of high jinks at the Albert Hall, 
but instead he went on with mounting excitement, 

''Mrs. Purbright, you are our Paderewski of the moral art. 
You are the virtuoso of our spiritual life. You excel in good- 
ness." He stared at her fiercely. "Admit that you do." 

She was silent. 

"Has it come to this, that I must not even accuse you of 
goodness? That you still deny the imputation, even if I acquit 
you of all responsibility, and lay the blame on the workings of 
Divine Grace and the intervention of the Saints?" 

Still she said nothing. 

"Say after me, 'I, Volumnia Purbright, am a good woman, 
much better — and by better I mean better at being good — than 
ninety-nine per cent, of the inhabitants of Upton, not excepting 
Timothy Casson. It grieves me to say this because I know it will 
give offence to many; but in the interests of truth, I must,' " 

Mrs. Purbright shook her head. 

"Then I'll say it for you, and defy you to disagree." 

In an oratorical tone, and addressing the serried ranks of 
objects round him, he repeated the declaration as nearly as he 
could, but when he turned to Mrs. Purbright to claim her 
answer he saw that she was in tears. 

Timothy was appalled. The cloud-capped fabric of his fantasy 
crumbled, reality rushed in, the reality of a woman and a dear 
friend bludgeoned into tears by an unfeeling interlocutor. 

Much more embarrassed than she, he stammered out his 



THE BOAT 357 

apologies. He had to speak, for she could not. ''You bring out 
the worst in me!" he reproached her, sadly. ''It's because I 
never seem to talk to anyone now — I'm out of practice," he 
maundered on, "and the machinery gets hot from not being 
used. I didn't mean to talk like that. It was the way an old friend 
of mine used to talk, and I must have caught it from him. I 
didn't really mean what I said. How did it all begin? I know, 
I asked you about my servants, and you said you couldn't 
advise me because we were all sinners. You were quite right, of 
course." 

Mrs. Purbright was beginning to recover herself. "In my 
infancy," she began, dropped that thread and started again. 
"Soon after Edward and I were married. ..." But that cock 
wouldn't fight either. "Just before you came to Upton. . . ." 
Still the annals of her past life yielded no precedent to mitigate 
the impact of the present; she had to face it as it was. 

"I wasn't really upset," she said, "only it is so long since any^ 
one thought it worth while to talk to me like that. I'm glad you 
did, for it has cleared my mind, and now I can give you some 
advice, if you still want it." 

Timothy nodded. 

"You must get rid of them," she said, "misery-makers, 
enemies of happiness." 

Timothy hadn't expected this. 

"Oh, but I couldn't. They haven't really done anything, 
besides, I should never get any others." 

"All the same, I should get rid of them." 

"I'm quite fond of them in a way." 

"You must steel yourself." 

"But they've done a lot of work for me." 

"You must harden your heart." 

"'But they won't go!" 

"Then you must be the angel with the flaming sword." 

Upton a paradise! Timothy remembered with nostalgia the 
days when it had seemed so. 

"But if they went," he said, "I should have to go, too." 

Mrs. Purbright clasped her hands together, and almost WTung 
them. Inarticulate sounds came from her throat. At last she 
gaid, "Even so, I should send them away." 



358 THE BOAT 

When Timothy did not answer she added in a different tone, 
"But all the same I hope you won't." 

Ignoring her last remark, Timothy said, "You think it would 
be better 'if I left Upton?" 

Mrs. Pur bright hesitated. 

"Oh no, no, Mr. Casson. We have all immeasp.rahly benefited 
by your presence here. We should all be desolated if you left. 
But I do wish you could have a companion — not one of us, you 
have tried us, haven't you? You have given us a good trial — but 
something like your beloved bowl, but not so fragile, or so 
precious, or so perfect, something that could be a handmaid, 
not a magnet to your thoughts. Perhaps I have something here." 
Her glance swept the room; she rose abruptly and went to a 
small table on which stood a vase almost as large as itself. 
Taking the object in her arms she set it down on the floor in 
front of them. 

"Do you like cloisonne?" she said. "I don't, very much. 
But I've always been fond of this. Chinese art is usually static, 
isn't it? arrested — nothing seems to move. Perhaps that's why 
we both like it. Even the landscape is windless ! But here there 
is an effect of movement, don't you think?" 

Timothy rested his eyes on the lustreless, grey-green enamel 
of the vase, upon which, each enclosed in a margin of dull gold, 
floated flower-forms of every shade between pink and mauve 
and brown, with butterflies to match; and as he looked it did 
seem as though the whole mass was in motion, turning slowly 
round, like a revolving globe; and the petals, so firmly em- 
bedded, did seem to have a certain liberty of movement in 
relation to each other, and to widen or decrease the gap 
between them. So indeterminate and recessive were its lines 
that, for all its bulk, the vase seemed to have been conjured out 
of air — a materialisation of garden tints at twilight. 

"Please take it," Mrs. Purbright said, "if you can fancy some- 
thing that makes no claims for itself and is so used to being 
ignored. I have always found it companionable, and it isn't 
touchy, it wants to go to you — see how pleased it is to be 
changing hands." 

Suiting the action to the word, she put the vase into 
Timothy's lap. 



THE BOAT 359 

"Oh, but I couldn't accept such a wonderful present!" 
Timothy exclaimed, his fingers tightening on the vase. 

"It's not a present," Mrs. Purbright said. "I should like to 
give you a present some day. This is only the apology that I 
have owed you for so long. Whenever you look at it it will say, 
*Mrs. Purbright regrets.'" 

"If I ever catch it making such a remark," said Timothy, "I 
shall take a hammer to it." 

He was still fondling the vase as if he was afraid that Mrs. 
Purbright might change her mind, and still loading her with 
thanks when the Rector came in. 

"Why, Casson, you're quite a stranger!" he said. "What 
have you got there, a baby?" 

"It's something Mrs. Purbright has given me," Timothy 
said, and added hastily, "much nicer than a baby. But I don't 
think I ought to accept it." 

"I shall be eternally indebted to you," the Rector said, "if 
you will take away some of my wife's junk. By the way, has she 
told you the great news?" 

Timothy looked up in surprise. 

"Hasn't she told you that Edgell is coming home on a 
month's leave?" 

"We had so much else to talk about," Mrs. Purbright inter' 
posed, "but it was always at the back of my mind and made me 
a bad listener, I'm afraid. It isn't altogether a matter for re- 
joicing, Mr. Casson, because he has been ill, poor boy." 

"But you are always bidding us rejoice," observed the 
Rector. "Casson will bear me out." 

"Yes, but it is so much less easy for the young, in these days, 
and when they have got used to wider horizons. Edgell is quite 
a man now, Mr. Casson." 

"Well, that is something to be thankful for," said the Rector, 
playfully. 

"Yes indeed, but if only he would devote himself to his 
literary work ! He has a real gift for it. Perhaps you would help 
him, Mr. Casson?" 

"If I'm still here," said Timothy. 

"What, is Casson thinking of leaving us?" the Rector asked. 

"Oh no!" cried Mrs. Purbright, and Timothv thoui^ht he 



360 THE BOAT 

caught in her eye the flicker of an appeal. ''Only he has had 
domestic difiiculties." 

''He's lucky to have them," said the Rector grimly. "We 
should welcome that sort of difficulty, shouldn't we, Volumnia? 
At any rate there'll be one thing less for you to dust." 

Timothy looked guiltily at the great vase lying on his knees. 

"Can you really bear to part with it, Mrs. Pur bright?" 

"It is asking to be yours, Mr. Casson." 

Timothy got up, rather in the attitude of some classical 
figure who is going to draw water at a well. Stooping down he 
picked up the lid, with its band of dull gold, and slipped it in 
his pocket. Mrs. Purbright also rose and fetched from another 
part of the room a small statuette, which she put on the table 
where the vase had been. 

"It looks better there," she said. 

The room enfolded Timothy in its many-surfaced glow. 
Suddenly he felt impelled to testify. 

"How I envy Edgell," he said, "coming home to be with 
you! I should ask for nothing better, nor, I am sure, will he." 

Timothy walked home thoughtfully through the evening 
light, hugging his vase. Its firm metal body comfortably 
returned the pressure of his. "I'll show it to them both," he 
thought, "and tell them I've forgotten about the bowl." 

But the presentation did not go off as he had hoped ; Beatrice 
and Effie would hardly look at his new treasure, deputising 
modestly for the old one. His spirits sank and Mrs. Pur- 
bright's drawing-room seemed very far away. Misery-makers, 
enemies of happiness, she had called them. Should he act on her 
advice and sack them? For a moment she had persuaded him 
to take his future into his own hands, to assume the direction 
of what was happening to him, instead of fighting a perpetual 
rearguard action against circumstance. Then, with her second 
thoughts, her concern for Edgell, she had blurred the bright 
image of resolution, resurgent in his mind, leaving him as 
doubtful as before. 

"Isn't it pretty?" he repeated, hoping that by reiteration he 
could get them to admit it was. He flipped the enamel with his 
finger and it gave out a hollow ring, unmistakably metallic. 



THE BOAT 361 

"And you couldn't break it, no matter how hard you tried." 

The 'you' was indefinite and not meant to be taken per- 
sonally. But perhaps the whole sentence was unfortunate. 
Beatrice and Effie, exchanging furious glances with each other 
and with him, as at a signal turned away, and, heads erect, 
walked slowly to the door. Formerly Timothy had had a keen 
sense of the difference between them; they had seemed as unlike 
each other as two human beings could be. Now the same spirit 
seemed to inhabit them both and make them indistinguishable. 
It was a spirit of mindless hostility which, so long as he had been 
able to regard it in the abstract as an offence against charity and 
good manners, he had been able to find excuses for and even 
to think funny. But now he felt their naked enmity directed at 
him, with no cushion of humour or patience in between, and he 
responded as fully as they could have wished. 

''Stop !" he shouted. The two women paused on the threshold 
and looked round, disdain contending with apprehension in 
their eyes. 

"Come here!" he ordered, too angry now to care what 
happened. Beatrice and Effie came towards him, their faces 
(which annoyed him all the more) wearing an identical expres- 
sion of hauteur masking fear. "You don't seem very happy," he 
accused them, and suddenly he remembered having used this 
tone before ; at school, when he was Head of the House, and had 
occasion to rebuke refractory lower boys. "You seem pretty 
pleased with yourselves," he went on inconsequently, "I don't 
know what it's all about." He glowered at them, determined to 
wipe the struggling sneer from off their faces. "You come to this 
house and you think yourselves God Almighty, but you aren't." 
His heart rejoiced at the phrase, coming so pat to his tongue 
after over thirty years of mealy-mouthedness. "You seem to 
think you've come here for a picnic, but I'm going to show you 
you're mistaken. I've had about as much of you as I can stand. 
Have you anything to say for yourselves?" Beatrice and Efiie 
stared at him blankly; apparently they had nothing to say and 
Timothy's next move should have been to tell them to bend 
over. Rejecting it brought him to a nearer sense of the reality' 
of the situation. "You have a good home and comfortable 
quarters and I've done everything I could for you," he declared, 



362 THE BOAT 

keeping his utterance as magisterial as possible. ''But you're a 
couple of selfish, disagreeable women, bent on making trouble, 
and the sooner you go out of this house the better I shall be 
pleased. You can take a inonth's notice from tO'day." 

Timothy, who had been standing, sat down in a chair and 
drew a book towards him. "You can go now," he said. As he 
watched their retreating backs, one short and broad, the other 
tall and willowy, another phrase from his schooldays came into 
his mind. "And shut the door after you," he thundered. 

Timothy spent the evening in alternating states of elation, 
apprehension and remorse. Several times he was on the point 
of begging the maids' pardon and entreating them to stay. If he 
did not do it then, it was because he could do it just as easily the 
next day. 

But the next day brought a letter to say that Vera was arriving 
in Upton that afternoon, and Timothy's domestic problems 
slipped into the background. 



THE BOAT 363 



( 



Ik 



CHAPTER XXIV 

He met her the same evening in the Fisherman's Arms, and the 
moment he saw her gold'dusted head shining halo-Uke in the 
blue tobaccO'Smoke, the preoccupations of the last nine months 
seemed infinitely remote and indistinct. How could he have 
concerned himself with such trifles? Though they had already 
lost their shape and meaning he could feel the scars they had 
left, like rocks on the sea-shore, disappearing under the tide 
of happiness. This was what he had been living for all the time 
that his energies had been squandering themselves, petering 
out in a delta of spite and grievance. He did not thus formulate 
to himself the details of his deliverance; he just had time to 
register the fact of freedom before he felt her hand in his. 

She did not leave it there, however, for always they had 
practised a certain propriety in public and Timothy had been 
far too excited to notice who might or might not be in the bar. 
He had wished that their first meeting could be private ; it was 
she who had suggested the Fisherman's Arms — rather to his 
surprise as well as to his disappointment, for she had so often 
reminded him of the remark that had been dropped there about 
them. 

But he admired her courage, and actually their meeting 
had for him an added zest from being, however slightly, a 
gesture of defiance. They were not going to pipe down for 
anybody! Upton should know! There was a sweetness in the 
thought that she trusted him and was even proud of him as her 
ally; but it was not for that he wanted her, but for the sense of 
completion and fulfilment that she gave him, and the liberty to 
love her. 

All this could not be expressed, but it could be damped down 
like a furnace and the under-glow felt, while they exchanged the 
breathless platitudes of reunion under the barmaid's practised, 
understanding, and not unsympathetic eye. And the feeling of 
the room was not against them as Timothy, once he had 
eased his heart by a loving word to Vera, soon discovered. 



364 THE BOAT 

Looking round shyly and a litde dazed, like a swimmer who 
comes to the surface after a high dive, he met reserved but 
friendly recognitions, the friendliness for them, the reserve for 
their relationship, whose delicacy appealed at once to the 
sophistication that lurks in the most untutored minds. 
**Go on!" their glances, so economical of expression, seemed to 
say; ''behave as you must, we understand, we shall not be 
shocked unless you try to shock us." Grave, measuring 
glances, critical of his performance, but ready to approve if he 
did well. So, turning round to her, he did not feel uneasy at 
exposing his back to their expert scrutiny. 

"My darling," he said to Vera, when they were outside, "did 
we have to run that gauntlet?" 

She turned her sad face to him, in which the rapture of the 
whole world lay. 

"But, darling, it's such fun for them, and surely you want 
them on our side?" 

"Yes," said Timothy, doubtfully. "But we are our side, 
aren't we? I don't want anyone else." 

Vera looked up and down the village street, collecting the 
wide-eyed homage of the passers-by. 

"You are an old silly," she said. "You never know when you 
may want people." 

"I know when I don't want them," said Timothy. 

"I don't believe you do. Have you forgotten what that old 
hell'hound said about us?" 

"Well, you never told me what he actually said." 

"I wanted to spare your feelings, that was why. But one 
thing I can tell you, it wasn't very pleasant. I hoped you'd have 
done something about it." 

"But what could I do? Call them out? And you never told 
me who they were." 

"Darhng, you have such mediaeval ideas. They aren't exactly 
popular, you know. Not half as popular as you are." 

"Me, popular?" exclaimed Timothy. "Why, no one ever 
speaks to me." 

"That, darling, is because you're just a tiny bit of a snob, 
if you'll forgive me saying so, and don't speak to them. A few 
of the high-ups cold-shoulder you, and you know why, don't 



THE BOAT 365 

you?" 

The unmentionable, alas, is not the same as the unthinkable. 
Timothy knew what Vera was alluding to; but superstitiously 
he refused to give it words. 

"Oh, you mean something I have that they don't want me to 
use?" 

Vera laughed. 

''Darling, you make it sound so indecent. And it isn't 
indecent, it's perfectly proper. What could be more innocent 
than a — " 

**Yes, I know," said Timothy, hurriedly heading her off the 
forbidden word. "But I've more or less got used to the idea of 
doing without it." 

Vera regarded him coldly. 

"I wonder why I bothered to come back. I suppose you've 
also got used to the idea of doing without me?" 

"Oh Vera, how can you say that? I've simply been living for 
your return." 

"Well, you may have to do without me." 

"Why?" 

"To keep people from chattering about us." 

"But does it matter if they do? I don't mind my name being 
coupled with yours, if you don't. People will talk; it doesn't 
really mean anything. I tried to think of ways of retaliating, 
but in the end I felt the best plan was to ignore it." 

"I see," said Vera lightly. "Well, I suppose you know what 
suits your temperament." Again she looked the village up and 
down. It was a high summer; but the summer of 1941 was but a 
faded transcript of its predecessor. The sunshine was paler, the 
vegetation less luxuriant; it was as though Nature had ex- 
hausted herself, like an artist whose best work is over. One 
could not lose oneself in the rapture of the season's mood, for 
like one's own, and like the world's, it was discouraged. 

"You'll come back with me now?" said Timothy at last. 

"Darling, I'm afraid I mustn't. You forget I have to be a 
nursemaid. Frances's hands are so full. I can't leave her to cope 
with everything." 

"But she has to when you're away." 

Vera looked at him in sad surprise. 



366 THE BOAT 

"Dearest, you must forgive me but I never heard a more 
selfish speech. Don't you ever think of anyone but yourself?" 

Timothy reddened. 

''Well, come to dinner or come in afterwards." 

Vera shook her head. 

*'Not to-night. You see I am her guest, and I think she feels it 
a little that you didn't ask her when I was away." 

''I . . I meant to," said Timothy. ''I like Frances very much, 
of course. But it's you I'm really fond of, Vera darling." 

Vera looked at him. 

"Are you? I wonder. You don't act as if you were." 

Timothy decided to ignore the implications of this. 

"Oh, but I shall!" he cried, as confidently as he could. 
"You won't want to be with Frances all the time." 

She shrugged her slender shoulders. "I'll be seeing you." 

Timothy had to be content with that. He walked home 
soberly, his eyes on the ground, trying to see, in the dust that 
lay in thin drifts on the road, the quartz-like sparkle of a hope. 
He had to own that he was disappointed with Vera's reception 
of him; his feelings were still chilly from it. But his thoughts, 
scouting round, remembered a score of occasions when she had 
stood him off, only to take him back with added sweetness; 
this was but a temporary rebuff, a woman's ruse for making 
herself dearer. And well it had succeeded! Timothy's sprits 
were already buoyant with the hope of seeing her again. 

As he entered the house the telephone bell was ringing. 

"Hullo! This is Edgell Purbright here." 

"I'm delighted to know you're back," said Timothy, as 
warmly as he could. 

"Look here, I'm rather ashamed, but Mother said I was to 
ring you up." 

"I couldn't be more pleased." 

"You have to say that. Are you sure I'm not being a frightful 
bore?" 

"Of course not." 

"You know what mothers are. They're simply remorseless in 
defence of their young." 

"Who's she defending you from?" 



THE BOAT 367 

''I don't know." 

'Tm devoted to your mother," Timothy declared. "I'd do 
anything for her. What does she want me to do?" 

"She wants me to see you at any cost — at any cost to you, I 
mean." 

"But that would be a great pleasure," Timothy said. "When 
can we meet?" 

"I'm afraid I'm always at your service." 

Timothy thought rapidly. Tomorrow, Vera might be here. 
The day after tomorrow Vera might be here. The day after that 
she would almost certainly be here, all day ; as indeed she might 
be on the preceding days. There was not a moment that was not 
bespoken by her; the whole future was hers. 

"It's most tiresome, but I have one or two unforeseen en- 
gagements," Timothy invented hurriedly. "Could you come on 
Friday, about six-ish?" Friday was three days ahead. 

"Splendid," said Edgell's full, resonant voice, not at all the 
voice of an invalid. "And you won't mind if I come armed with 
my literary works? Mother insists on that. She really is quite 
shameless." 

Timothy begged him to bring them first, "or — or — just drop 
them into the letter-box if you're passing," he added. "Then I 
shall be in a position to make a report." 

Edgell promised to do this and their conversation bowed 
itself away in expressions of goodwill. Indeed, as the evening 
wore on Timothy began to regret that he had not asked Edgell 
to come round sooner, so heavily did the time drag and so 
fidgety did he become. 

The next morning brought a letter from Magda. It was written 
from the nursing home in Grosvenor Square which she fre- 
quented when she felt in need of a rest. There was nothing 
unusual in that; what wasnovel was the superscription, heavily 
embossed in letters of scarlet: DEATH TO THE FASCIST 
DOGS AND TRAITORS. 

"Dearest Timothy," he read, 

"Hitler's cowardly attack on the Soviets has mo\'ed us all 
deeply and left us in no doubt where we stand. What has all 
along been an imperialist, capitalist war has turned in a night 



368 THE BOAT 

into a war for the preservation of the proletariat, and nothing 
else matters. Whoever loses the war, they will win. Whatever 
other result the war may have, it now can only advance the 
cause of Communism. We in Curzon Street are straining every 
nerve; there was a new light in Nastya's eye this morning, when 
she told me that she lived only for one thing — to kill Fascists, 
to kill more Fascists, and to kill still more Fascists. And all the 
time the dear girl was saying this she was laughing with that 
deep'chested Russian laughter which no European, corrupted 
by centuries of bourgeois culture, can hope to understand. 
Two other girls whom I don't think I've told you about, 
Moucha and Groucha, joined in and laughed till the tears ran 
down their cheeks. I'm glad to say I was able to laugh, too. 
Niggling, individual emotions impede our march, but collective 
thankfulness is a tonic. I had to go away and make up my face. 
The Russian stalwarts didn't bother to do that, and much as I 
dislike tear-stained faces and what I can only describe as that 
nasty natural look, I didn't mind it in them, for they are always 
on active service, and only Nazi generals paint their faces on the 
battlefield. 

"But I'm ashamed to say the whole thing was too much for 
me, so I rang up the Daimler Hire and here I am. 

*'Of course I shouldn't be writing to you if I didn't know 
that you would now be heart and soul in the war. You were 
right to hang back before, but there's only one reaction now. 
You are absolutely sound, Timothy, aren't you? I won't know 
anyone who isn't. You were always a little comfort-loving and 
I know how uncomfortable a turnover in one's convictions is — 
or I shouldn't be here, propped up on pillows, with these 
rather pretty but maddeningly silly nurses fussing round me, 
just when I want to be doing something, no matter what. 

"But because we're all in it now doesn't mean we have 
ceased to keep an eye on the Fascists in our midst, and from 
what you tell me, and what I hear, there is quite a colony of 
them at Upton. All those retired soldiers and people who seem 
so patriotic, but are really fighting to enslave the workers. 
You haven't done anything about them, Timothy, in spite of all 
the provocation they've given you, and all the backing you've 
had. You really must, and to help you to make up your mind 



THE BOAT 369 

I'm going to accept the charming invitation you gave me so long 
ago and pay you a visit. As soon as I leave this place which will 
be in a fortnight at the latest, I'll come down to spend the rest 
of my leave with you, if you can bear it (the Ministry has given 
me three weeks off). I shall try to combine business with 
pleasure, and I shan't be a burden on your household because 
I shall have Nastya with me (I think I had your permission to 
bring her). She is a tower of strength and though she dis- 
approves of servants and thinks them funny she gets on with 
them perfectly on the lines of class solidarity. 

"So what fun it will be, to see places and people I've heard so 
much about, and have a drink at the Fisherman's Arms, and 
above all to be with you, dearest Timothy, in your absurd 
bourgeois stronghold. Don't think I shall be bored by meeting 
the locals. I want to see them all from Mrs. Purbright down- 
wards, so please parade them for me. And if there's a chance of 
getting over to Welshgate to see Julia Lampard I shall go — poor 
old girl, she never cared much for me, but now she's batty she 
might like to see me. I always get on well with lunatics. 

*'How wonderful to be able to say au revoir! 

Magda. 

'T.S. You once asked me if I thought you grumbled too 
much. If you want my honest opinion, I think perhaps you do. 
All you really have to complain of is that things are no longer 
quite the same for people of your sort." 

Timothy's first reaction to this letter was one o( alarm and 
despondency. He had longed for Magda to come ; but diat she 
should choose this very moment, just when Vera was here! 
Vera could never tell him how long she was staying ; it would be 
cruel to lose her for a whole week. And Magda would be sure 
to find out about her (if she did not know already, she seemed 
so well posted in the gossip of Upton). She would not, of 
course, frown upon Timothy's liaison, indeed, she would give 
it her blessing, but how awkward the arrangements would be, 
demanding a kind of savoir-faire that he had never had. He was 
such an amateur, and Magda had no patience with amateurs, 
less than none with amatory amateurs of middle-age. To her 
trained eye, his conduct would seem woefully lacking in finesse ; 



370 THE BOAT 

he might even muddle the whole thing, leaving Vera and himself 
looking shamefaced and ridiculous. 

All the more was it important to regain Vera's favour without 
delay, so that they might snatch some happiness together before 
Magda came. 

He looked at Magda's letter again. What a lot she knew 
about him and his doings, almost as if she had been making a 
study of Upton! It was unlike her to show curiosity; even in 
the days before her political phase she had always treated his 
other friendships as something quite outside her province. If 
he told her about them, she was frank in her comments, just as 
she was outspoken with him about her own concerns ; but she 
never demanded confidences, she never probed, never for a 
moment suggested that she knew more than he had told her. 
But perhaps it was only his bad conscience that made him 
suspect her of doing so now — and in any case he ought to feel 
grateful to her, for Mrs. Purbright excepted, who else had 
bothered to speculate about him? To the others, friends, neigh- 
bours, acquaintances, servants, he was just a figure in their 
private fantasies, and usually an unwelcome and embarrassing 
one. Even to Vera he seemed hardly more than a convenient 
receptacle for her mood of the moment — moods which hap- 
pened to be dearer to him than anything else. 

So Magda must come, and she must be given a royal welcome, 
and Beatrice and Effie should now be told the news. 

A year or more ago, when he had broached the matter to 
them, they had been far from enthusiastic. ''I can manage as 
long as you don't have guests," Beatrice had said. But now, 
since he had given them notice, their demeanour had com- 
pletely changed; they were friendly, civil, obliging, and nothing 
seemed a trouble. It was as though with the coming of the clash 
that they had so long been working for all their ill-humour had 
been purged. The certainty, the finality had cured them. 
Everything had been said that could be said; the air had been 
cleared, the axe had fallen, and they had returned to their best 
selves. An alternative, and more unflattering explanation was 
that they were thankful to be leaving Upton, the Old Rectory, 
and him; and no doubt they were. But had that been the only 
reason for the change they would have been less pleasant to 



THE BOAT 371 

Timothy; now, it seemed, they could not do enough for him. 

Meanwhile, what was he to do when they went away? If he 
left Upton, where would he go? And what would happen about 
the unexpired lease of the Old Rectory ? Miss Chadwick would 
not make it easy for him, she had told him so. He could not 
afford the rent of two houses; after the loss of his job, his 
extravagances, and the considerable wartime shrinkage in his 
income, he could scarcely afford to pay for one. 

If he meant to stay he ought to write at once to an agency 
for domestic servants. Mrs. Purbright would advise him as to 
the best course. But she had made it clear that she wanted him 
to go (or had she?) and Timothy, too, had been resigned to 
going, had almost embraced the idea, only a few days ago. 

He did not have to ask himself why he had changed his mind. 
The answer was at The Nook, but it was also in the air around 
him, it declared itself in all his movements, and in the face the 
mirror showed him. Upton had regained its magic. 

The wisdom of experience is seldom proof against the 
emotion of the moment. Now that Beatrice and Efiie were so 
amiable, why not tell them he had reconsidered his opinion, 
and ask them as a favour to stay on? In their present mood of 
delighted acquiescence in his every whim, it seemed as though 
they could not refuse. Something warned Timothy that such a 
policy would not work, that human behaviour had its laws 
which could not be mocked ; but all the same he kept the pro- 
ject in reserve, and while he had it to fall back on, he could 
shelve the other. 

As he expected, Beatrice and Effie received the news of 
Magda's visit with every sign of joy; their feelings, indeed, 
seemed to be far less mixed than his. It would do him good to 
have company ; they would like his friends to know how well he 
was being looked after; they would be interested to see this 
Mrs. Vivian, the 'society' woman, whose photograph used to 
be in the papers, before the papers 'got so full of the war and 
that sort of thing.' This very morning Effie would put hot- 
water-bottles in the spare room bed; or would it be wiser to 
bring the mattress down and air it in front of the tire? Well, 
perhaps it would, Timothy said. But wouldn't it be a great 
bother? Oh, no bother at all; together they could do it easily. 



372 THE BOAT 

The kitchen fire would be best ; Timothy wouldn't want a fire in 
the drawing-room this hot weather, and the mattress would look 
awkward and be in his way. But wouldn't it look awkward, and 
be in their way, in the kitchen? Not in the least, they could 
easily get round it. 

Timothy wondered why he had ever found Beatrice and 
Efiie difficult to get on with. Perhaps they were really longing to 
stay, and were just waiting for an advance from him. . . . 

Edgell's typescripts duly arrived, a not too formidable 
parcel. The typescripts were somewhat faint, as though they 
had passed through many hands, but they were perfectly easy to 
read. For the most part they consisted of short stories, generally 
rather facetious in tone, their scenes laid in bars and night- 
clubs, street corners and dark entries, and the characters, who 
were often crooks or near-crooks, spoke a language flavoured 
with tough-guy Americanese. Through them flitted amorous and 
dazzling ladies, too beautiful to ignore, too ambiguous to trust. 
Seemingly as hard as nails, and with no flies on them, they 
rushed bald-headed into dangerous situations, and were always 
making appointments to meet equivocal males in deserted 
houses at nightfall. Many were the concussions they sustained 
from blunt instruments wielded in the dark; many were the 
knock-out drops they obligingly swallowed in their coffee; 
many were the rescues. Often the stories ended in a surprising 
twist, for the author did not always disclose, sometimes he 
never disclosed, whether the fair victims were angels or fallen 
angels, spies or counterspies. The stories had their dates 
attached; the later and maturer ones had an Air Force setting, 
bristling with Air Force slang. Timothy was impressed by 
this and by the fact that he could have written none of them 
himself. He liked what he remembered of Edgell, and was only 
too glad to give the benefit of the doubt to Mrs. Purbright's son. 

But what a baffling mixture of sophistication and naivete, 
of fidelity to the literary canons that Edgell had adopted, and of 
ignorance, or neglect, of all experience outside them! These 
bewitching blondes, for instance, always getting themselves and 
other people into trouble: did they really exist outside the 
pages of a novel ? Were they not instances of the age-old fallacy 
that plain women were good, and pretty women bad? Had 



THE BOAT 373 

Edgell ever encountered one in real life? Had he, Timothy? 

Well, there was Vera, of course (though Edgell, to be sure, 
had scarcely met her) and it was amusing to think how easily, 
to someone who didn't know her, she might seem to fit into the 
category of adventuresses who haunted Edgell's imagination. 
She was just as pretty as they were, indeed, much prettier, for 
she had her own face, darling Vera's face, with a hundred lights 
and shadows on it, not visible at a first glance, but visible to a 
lover's eye, utterly distinct from anything implied in that 
dreary, reach-me-down appellation, platinum blonde. And she 
was mysterious as woman is, as life is, not with the mystery of 
a siren in a shocker, factitiously imposed on her by a callow 
author in search of literary effects. True, she came out of the 
dark, she had no 'background' to 'place' her, for those who are 
interested in social cartography; but, are we not all the same, 
ships that pass in the night? Come to that, she knew very little 
about Timothy's background; neither had thought it worth 
while to impart to the other details of their past lives, and he had 
no reason to suppose that hers was shadier than his. People did 
not come together in their backgrounds but in their fore- 
grounds, in the pool of bright light, as bright as Vera's hair, that 
the present moment shed around them. To inquire how they 
got there, by what streets and alleys, with what preoccupations, 
with the marks of what contacts, was as irrelevant and unfruit- 
ful as to try to trace the provenance of the half-crown in one's 
pocket. Really, how absurd Edgell was to connect these sleek, 
stream-lined creatures, simply because they were pretty, with 
all sorts of nefarious doings, sinister Chinamen, leaders of 
thugdom, and so on! No, he would never make a writer, because 
he saw life not as it was, but in terms of shocker-values ; and the 
best way of convincing himself of that was to seek out Vera 
immediately, before she had time to leave the Fisherman's 
Arms, and persuade her to come back with him. 

How innocent she looked among the warming pans and 
pewter tankards ! If anyone in the bar was sinister, and needed 
his antecedents and intentions checking, it was Timothy; 
and Vera seemed to realize this, for she kept him at small-talk's 
length, fluttering on the surface of her mind like a moth trying 
to get in at a window — very different from the villain-heroines 



374 THE BOAT 

of Edgell's tales, who spoke in monosyllables, and then only to 
be rude. When he said he must go she didn't offer to accompany 
him; and when he proposed she should dine with him, on that 
night, or the next night or the next — a trap into which any of 
Edgell's young ladies would immediately have fallen — she only 
looked rather wistful and said that Timothy must not let her 
take up all his time. 

Timothy ought to have welcomed these signs of incorrupt 
tibility, these proofs that Nature was far from imitating Art, and 
that to be blonde was not to be a baggage. But he did not. 
Regardless of the publicity of the bar, he took her hand and 
pressed it; he looked into her eyes; he let his feeling pass into 
his voice. All to no purpose : she was immovable on her stool. 

The next day dragged by on leaden feet and the night 
followed, hardly distinguishable from it. So dark was Timothy's 
mind that the outward darkness brought no solace, it merely 
intensified the gloom in which he stood or sat or lay, repeating 
over and over again to himself the incredible news that Vera no 
longer cared for him. 

He felt it was most important that he should face this fact. 
Reality was sacred; at whatever cost to his nerves and feelings, 
reality must be recognized. She had grown tired of him, he 
bored her; that was the truth. 

There was nothing surprising in it and yet he could not 
believe it, for there had been no rupture, hardly the shadow of a 
difference since the time when she accepted — not very willingly 
perhaps (but what girl of nice feelings would have accepted 
them willingly?) — his presents, and his love. 

The thing did not make sense, for even if she had been as 
chaste as ice (and she had never pretended to be chaste, why on 
earth should she, thought Timothy, impatiently shaking his 
head at the world's wagging forefinger) she need not suddenly 
have withdrawn from him every token of favour, and treated 
him almost as a stranger, so that all the feelings that sprang to 
life at sight of her, flooding his emotional constitution with an 
ichor that can only safely be absorbed by happiness, had become 
a poison to his mind and body. 

He could not and would not think unkindly of her, for to do 
so only aggravated his misery, by robbing him of hope ; besides, 



THE BOAT 375 

(his more reflective and philosophic self reminded him), what 
right had he to expect her to be constant to him, a middle-aged 
man leading a dull life, with nothing to offer her except a few 
gew-gaws? — while in return he demanded from her all the 
things that are most irksome to part with, unless given from a 
full heart? His position was one of the oldest and tritest known 
to the stage, the elderly protector abandoned by his young 
mistress; even the kindest and most tolerant of spectators 
would shrug his shoulders and feel that here was little to 
excite compassion — so little, indeed, that there was not one 
human being in the world to whom Timothy would have cared 
to confess his plight. You will get over it, he kept telling him- 
self; suddenly you will see the whole thing in proportion — 
Timothy had great faith in proportion — and as something 
that is happening to someone else: perhaps even as funny. 
'What a comedy!' — he had been teased, he remembered, for 
overworking this phrase. 

But such exercises in externalization only plunged him deeper 
into himself and forged new chains to bind him to his identity ; 
for love is jealous of the other emotions, and the slightest 
exertion of the imagination, on a subject however unrelated, 
fans its flames. The torpor which is love's most dangerous 
enemy eluded Timothy, and the more he explored his dungeon 
the narrower did it seem. 

That Vera should be in Upton and he not see her, except at 
meaningless encounters at a pub ! And that she should acquiesce 
in this as though she did not care, as though she had not felt 
the depth of his affection, as though she wanted to take herself 
out of his life, as though he meant nothing to her, as though she 
disliked him — 

One day, any day, musing thus, he heard the doorbell ring, a 
summons from the outer world which awoke no response in 
him. But the next moment Effie was in the room, and following 
her a young man in Air Force uniform whom, for a moment, 
Timothy did not recognize. 

**You don't remember me," the visitor said, looking down at 
Timothy widi a self-deprecating grin. 'Tm Edgell Purbright. 
You did say Friday, didn't you?" 



376 THE BOAT 

Recollection rushed over Timothy. 

''Of course, of course, my dear fellow!" he exclaimed, 
getting up and pumping Edgell's hand. ''I can't tell you how 
glad I am to see you!" He felt his manner must seem strangely 
distracted, for Edgell couldn't know what a relief his presence 
was. "Come, let's have a drink. I've had one already, two or 
three in fact." He looked guiltily at the young officer, whose 
uniform gave him, to Timothy, the status of a much older man. 

''I congratulate you, sir," said Edgell, ''and I only wish I 
could say the same. Unfortunately, owing to a little disagree- 
ment between me and my tummy, I'm limited to one." 

"Oh, what bad luck!" exclaimed Timothy, gazing at Edgell 
with as much sympathy as if the young man had lost all his 
relations. "I'd quite forgotten you were ill. What is it, if you 
don't mind telling me?" 

"I'm ashamed to tell you," said Edgell, taking his glass and 
bowing over it to Timothy, "because it's what every lead- 
swinger has. A propensity to irritation, or what you will, in 
the duodenum. It's an odd thing — our M.O.'s are as brave as 
lions on our behalf, and they don't mind how many of us get 
killed in other ways, but you've only got to breathe the word 
duodenal and you're back in civilian life before you have time 
to kiss them goodbye." 

"Fancy!" said Timothy. "But — " he looked at Edgell with 
concern — "don't you feel ill?" 

"Well," said Edgell, "every now and then the old pain comes 
back and gives me a touch of what for, especially if I have to 
stand for long together, like you do in church. I shall never be 
able to follow Dad's profession — that's definitely barred, it's 
much too strenuous. No pulpit work for me. I've got to be 
sedentary for the present. I dare say I shall find an opening as a 
lounge lizard. I could be quite good at horizontal sports, like 
love." 

He spoke lightly, but Timothy saw slanting shadows between 
his nose and the corners of his mouth which had not been 
there before. His face was paler and had lost its roundness, it 
had the look of maturity that suffering so quickly gives. He was 
broader and thinner than Timothy remembered him, and much 
better-looking. 



THE BOAT 377 

''That's partly why Mother was so anxious you should vet 
my literary efforts," Edgell went on. ''She thinks I might be 
deputed to write an official history of the Air Force, or some- 
thing of that sort. I told her you wouldn't want to be bothered, 
and it was a shame to trouble you, but she simply wouldn't 
listen. Mother's a clever woman, you know, under all that sort 
of flowery stuff. But I'm her Achilles heel. Perhaps I'm every 
sort of heel. She's not quite sane where I'm concerned." 

"Your mother has been infinitely kind to me," said Timothy, 
"but even if she wasn't I should have been delighted to read 
your stuff." 

He paused, and Edgell said quickly, in another voice, "You 
don't think it's too utterly shaming?" 

"Indeed I don't," said Timothy, but he could not quite keep 
his eyes on Edgell's face. "It's not the sort of thing I could ever 
write myself," he went on, choosing his words. "I wish I 
could." He thought he saw the shadows deepen on Edgell's 
cheek, and added, "I'm sure there'd be a future for that kind of 
thing, and your Air Force studies are excellent — so first-hand." 

"You like them better than my rescue work among the 
blondes?" grinned Edgell. 

"Well," said Timothy. The thought of Vera, kept at bay for 
five minutes, pierced him and he could hardly go on. "I thought 
them more carefully observed, truer to life, you know." 

"Man and boy, I have had some experience of blondes," said 
Edgell, reflectively. "In a way they do run truer to type than 
brown-haired girls, I find. Or perhaps it's just that I run truer 
to type when I'm with them. I don't seem able to keep them out 
of my stories. Do you remember meeting one at Mother's 
sherry party?" 

"'Mm," said Timothy. 

"Pretty girl, didn't you think so? She was the sort I mean." 

But before Timothy had time to answer he heard the whirr of 
the telephone bell. Glad of the excuse to turn his back on 
Edgell he hurried into the little white-panelled room. 

"Yes?'* 

"Hullo, darling," said a voice much more familiar to him 
than his own. "I thought I'd just like to know how you were." 

"I'm getting on," Timothy said, flatly. 



378 THE BOAT 

''Darling, do you mean you're growing older? I couldn't bear 
that. I wouldn't have rung you up if I'd known you were going 
to tell me such dreadful news." 

"Well, why did you ring me up?" said Timothy. 

"Has anything happened, my sweet? You sound so cross. I 
meant to ask you if I might come and dine with you, but I 
won't if you don't want me." 

"Please come," said Timothy. "Do come, Vera, please." 

"When shall I come?" 

"Come now, right away." 

"Oh, I couldn't do that. I couldn't come as I am, if I'm going 
to spend the evening with you." 

"Of course you are." 

"It'll take me an hour or more. Will you still want me?" 

"I shall have forgotten you by then." Timothy paused. "I've 
got a man here, but he'll be going any time now." 

"What sort of a man?" 

"Oh just a man, nobody special." 

"Should I like him?" 

"No, I don't think he'd interest you. He's quite a nice fellow, 
but a bit of an invalid," said Timothy carelessly. 

"I don't like the sound of him. Do send him away, my pet. 
Tell him his wife's been run over." 

"He hasn't got one, but I'll get rid of him somehow. You'll 
hurry, won't you?" said Timothy. 

"I shall run all the way." 

He gave the receiver a resounding kiss. 

Timothy returned to the drawing-room to find Edgell 
fingering the stem of his wineglass. Timothy offered to fill it up 
for him. 

"No, I mustn't. But won't you have another? You look so 
well you can afford to." 

"Do I look well?" asked Timothy. 

"Since you came back from telephoning you look a new 
man, if I may say so, sir. I hope it was good news." 

"Well, it means I've got an engagement," said Timothy, 
"which is rather a bore, but not at once. Now, about your 
stories — " 

He put his finger to his lip, but no thoughts would come. 



I 



THE BOAT 379 

Those that were not centred on Vera were banished by his 
sudden translation into bUss. 

''Yes?" said Edgell, bending forward with his elbows on his 
knees. He turned his eyes, his mother's violet eyes, intently on 
Timothy. 

*'I was going to say . . ." Timothy groped, ''that work of that 
kind . . . should find a ready sale in magazines." 

To his disappointment, Edgell did not seem elated by the 
idea of magazines. 

"I'd thought of trying them on some of the reviews," 
he admitted, leaning back in his chair. 

"Quite right," said Timothy, eagerly. "Try them by all 
means. They are just what high-brow editors want. I mean," he 
hurried on, "they have plenty of action and snap and . . . and, 
of course, the feminine interest." 

Like a rocking-horse, Edgell leaned forward again. "You think 
I handle the women all right?" he said, with an earnestness and 
deference that made Timothy feel all the more inadequate. 

"You do! You do!" he cried. "Those mystery minxes — they 
should — they should — go down well. Photogenic, too." 

Edgell raised an eyebrow. 

"You were thinking of the films?" 

"Well, yes. One never knows what will appeal to them. I 
mean," said Timothy wildly, "animals do." 

"Animals?" repeated Edgell, puzzled. 

"Yes, yes," said Timothy. "Don't think I'm speaking reck- 
lessly, but next to women, animals are about the greatest draw 
to the reading public. Children adore them so. If only you could 
cash in on them!" He looked desperately at Edgell. "Are you 
fond of animals, er . . . er . . . Squadron-Leader?" 

"Only Flight-Lieutenant, I'm afraid," said Edgell, politely. 
"But please call me Edgell." He leaned back again, and said a 
little sulkily but not without dignity, "Yes, I'm quite fond of 
animals. I can't say I'm mad about them." 

"Because," cried Timothy, ignoring his guest's lukewarm- 
ness towards the brute creation, "I have the most delightful 
dog here." Timothy said 'dog' as one might say 'unicorn' or 
'phoenix.' "Would you like to see him?" 

"I should like to see him very much," said Edgell, civilly, 



380 THE BOAT 

but with more than a hint of patience in his tone. 

'Then if you'll excuse me I'll go and fetch him," said 
Timothy. 

Outside in the hall Timothy closed his eyes and drew several 
long breaths. The law of hospitality was one of the most 
sacred in the world. It was especially venerated by the Fiji 
Islanders. How could be behave so badly to this charming young 
man, who was moreover Mrs. Purbright's son, her heel of 
Achilles? Yet something had to be done to still the tumult in 
his mind. 

Arrived in the kitchen he suddenly remembered he must tell 
the maids that Vera was coming to dinner. The news, an- 
nounced with misgiving, was received with acclaim, and Effie 
said in her most refined voice, ''It will be quite nice to see Miss 
Cross again. She is quite a stranger." 

How generous of her, thought Timothy, how kind. His face 
glowed with gratitude. He thanked her, and said to Beatrice, 
"Could I borrow Felix for a moment?" 

At the mention of his name, Felix got up and ambled towards 
Timothy, his chain grating on the flag-stones. 

"Do you want to take him into the room?" asked Beatrice. 
Did his eyes deceive him or had she turned a little pale? 
Certainly her voice was her old voice, at its most discouraging. 

"Well, that was my idea." 

Beatrice hesitated. How jealous she is, thought Timothy; she 
she can't bear him out of her sight. 

"I should keep him on the chain, then," she said, gruffly. 
"He goes regular mad now, if he's let off." 

"Oh I'm sure he'll be good," said Timothy. "Down, Felix, 
down. Mind your hairs on my best suit. No, no, don't lick me. 
Now stand still just for one moment." 

At last the panting, straining Felix was unchained. 

"I should keep hold of his collar, sir," said Beatrice, 
anxiously. "You never know what he'll be up to, and it isn't 
his fault, a dog can't help being a dog." 

Their progress down the passage and across the hall was like 
that of half a man and half a dozen dogs. 

"Here he is!" cried Timothy, opening the door. 

Startled by the tornado of noise and movement, Edgell 



THE BOAT 381 

looked up from his book. Felix made straight for him, pro- 
pelled, it seemed, by the action of his tail; and the next thing 
Timothy heard was a dull thud followed by a tremendous, 
clanging crash. Headless on the floor lay the cloisonne vase; 
its lid rolled wobbling to Timothy's feet, and fell over. 

*'Oh dear!" cried Timothy. ''Your mother's vase! Felix, 
you bad, bad dog!" 

Felix, his tail still waving, vouchsafed a backward look of 
light apology before launching his friendliness upon Edgell. 

Timothy picked up the vase. Except for an almost imper- 
ceptible dent, which 'might have been there before, it was 
uninjured. He turned to Edgell, who had somehow subdued 
Felix's demonstrativeness to a display of manageable affection. 
He apologized for the dog and added, ''Such an extraordinary 
thing. It might almost make the subject for a short story. I'll 
tell it you if you like — though there are no blondes in it except 
this one." He patted Felix's golden head — but cautiously, for a 
heartier caress would be sure to move the retriever to reprisals . 
"I had a china bowl once, a rather nice one ..." 

Edgell was a flattering listener. Timothy did not tell him how 
the bowl came to be his, but laid great stress on Mrs. Pur- 
bright's kindness in furnishing a substitute. "But you see how 
baffling it was," he wound up. "Felix was in disgrace at the time 
and I suppose Beatrice thought I should get rid of him if I knew 
he'd done it." 

Felix, who was now lying on the hearthrug with his legs 
stretched out and his creamy undershirt becomingly displayed , 
raised his head with a look of suffering nobility. 

"It's a story with a happy ending," said Edgell, "for I take it 
that everyone's forgiven and there won't be any retrospective 
victimisation?" 

"Oh no," said Timothy. "It all seems so long ago now, and so 
trivial. I don't know why we all got so worked up." 

"But the blonde was the culprit, after all," said Edgell, 
gently stirring Felix with his foot. "You see I'm right, sir. 
They aren't to be trusted." 

"Oh, do you think so?" said Timothy, but he said no more, 
for in the doorway stood Effie, announcing with some pride, 
"Miss Cross." 



382 THE BOAT 



CHAPTER XXV 

All three got up, and Timothy, with a restraining finger on 
Felix's collar, said, *'Do you know Mr. Edgell Pur bright, 
Vera?" 

Ignoring Timothy, she walked across him and took Edgell' s 
hand. She was wearing a black silk dress with touches of pale 
blue here and there. 

''Know him, of course I know him. You weren't expecting 
me so soon, were you?" she said. 'T came early on purpose. . . . 
You might look pleased to see me, Timothy! You meant to 
keep him from me, didn't you?" Her glance brushed his, then 
gathering power, fixed its searchlight beam on Edgell's face. 

''Do you know what your friend said on the telephone?" she 
asked. 

"I'm afraid I didn't eavesdrop," Edgell said. "I'm not in our 
Intelligence Department." 

"You don't look as if you were," said Vera. "Shall I tell him, 
Timothy?" 

"I'm afraid I can't remember what I said." Timothy was 
miserably embarrassed. 

"Can't you, darling? I can. You said you had a man here, 
nobody special, and he wouldn't interest me." 

"I'm sure Mr. Casson was quite right," said Edgell. 

"I only meant you wouldn't be interested in what we were 
talking about," Timothy said. 

"You didn't say so, darling. You said I shouldn't be interested 
in him because he was an invalid." 

Timothy glanced despairingly at Edgell, and the latter said 
goodhumouredly to Vera, "I expect you only like tough guys 
like Mr. Casson." 

"I liked you the first time I saw you," said Vera, lightly 
underlining 'first.' "I wish Timothy hadn't told me you were an 
invalid." 

"Why?" said Edgell. "Does it matter to you?" 

"You're pretty rude, aren't you?" said Vera. Her voice grew 



THE BOAT 383 

softer as her face hardened. ''If Timothy had any guts he'd 
chuck you out. But perhaps you're both invalids. ... I don't 
think I want to stay, Timothy; I'll go now. I'll leave the gentle- 
men together." She turned and began to walk towards the door. 

**Oh, but I'm going, too," said Edgell, giving Timothy a quick 
look. ''Don't let me break up your party. You can't be sorrier 
than I am that I'm an invalid." 

Halfway across the room Vera stopped and looked back at 
Edgell. 

"Are you an invalid, I wonder?" 

"Well, don't I look it?" 

"Perhaps you do," said Vera. "But Timothy was right: I'm 
not really interested." 

Timothy hovered uneasily between his guests. 

"Then no harm's done," said Edgell. "I didn't think you 
were." 

While she hesitated, he strolled casually up to her, and 
experimentally held out his hand. "Please let me grasp the 
nettle," he said. 

He was between her and the door, and by making the 
initiative of departure his, had robbed hers of its effectiveness. 

Rather as if he had been offering her a dead mouse, she took 
his hand. 

"Well, so long as it's goodbye," she said, not looking at 
him. 

"That's for you to say." 

She shrugged her shoulders and stood still, like an island in a 
river, while Timothy wound round her to join Edgc^U at the 
door. 

He wanted to apologize to Edgell but Vera had made that 
difficult, and he could not think of anything that would not 
sound disloyal. Crossing the hall he said, "You will come 
again, won't you, and have another talk? I'm so sorry we were 
interrupted." 

Edgell gave him a sardonic grin. "Oh, that was quite all 
right. She doesn't seem to like me, does she?" 

Timothy couldn't help feeling sorry for someone whom \'era 
didn't like. 

"Oh it's just her way, you know. You mustn't take her too 



384 THE BOAT 

seriously." 

"I'll take care not to. And thanks a lot for the pep-talk, sir. 
I'll come back for another." 

Edgell walked out into the evening sunshine, a smart, 
soldierly figure. ''Give my love to your mother," Timothy 
called after him, and Edgell answered, ''I forgot, she asked me to 
give you hers." 

When he returned to the drawing-room Vera was still 
standing where he left her. 

'*I suppose you have been pulling me to pieces," she said. 

**Oh no, Vera darling. I think he's fallen for you." 

"Good God, I hope not. What is the matter with him, really? 
Is it something unmentionable?" 

Timothy told her. 

"Oh, just indigestion. I think that's so unattractive, darling. 
I'm glad you don't have it. I expect he gets the wind up." 

Timothy laughed. 

"No, I believe he's rather a good pilot." He felt he could 
afford to be generous to Edgell. "He's not a very good writer, 
I'm afraid." 

"Oh, does he write? What does he write about?" 

"Well, chiefly about blondes." 

They both laughed, and Vera said, "Darling give me a drink, 
if you haven't given it all to your boy-friend." 

They dined by candle-light and daylight. It was extravagant 
but intimate, and Timothy found a curious pleasure in watch- 
ing the outside world recede and lose its meaning, while their 
world, the world between the candles, glowed and brightened, 
until there was nothing left in it but them. 

Crushed by days of disappointment, almost lost sight of in 
the scene with Edgell, his love for her returned, the stronger 
for the interruption, and gilded and enriched by the months of 
separation. Disappointment, besides being one of the most 
unendurable of the emotions, is also one of the most remedi- 
able; healed, it leaves a scar tougher than untried skin. Timothy 
could not have enjoyed the hour so much if it had not been 
preceded by a long era of failure — failure to realize his wishes, 
failure to consent in their frustration. All these, in retrospect, 
were seen to be leading uphill and not down, towards a smiling 



THE BOAT 385 

prospect of illimitable extent, not to the narrow confines of a 
dungeon. The highest thing one could aim at was a perfect 
human relationship, and what was perfection worth if achieved 
without struggle, how could it be apprehended except in terms 
of previous set-backs? Far from destroying hope, these set' 
backs had only strengthened it, endowing it with a myriad 
shoots on which the flowers of rapture hung. 

That Vera was an awkward customer Timothy did not deny, 
but in wooing her he had wooed the world in all its variousness, 
had embraced its capacity to wound as well as its power to 
bless, and in winning her, making her his, he had been victorious 
not only over the world, but over his own suspiciousness of the 
world, his tendency to seek out only those elements and people 
who consorted with his temperament, and whom by a for- 
givable but faulty logic he rated higher, morally higher, than the 
rest. Loving Vera was like loving nature. Human life and human 
beings were far too complex to be herded into such modish 
categories as nice and nasty, still less such time-honoured ones 
as good and bad; by doing so, by sitting in judgment, a man cut 
himself off from his fellows, and all he achieved, by his cen- 
soriousness, was to define (for those who cared to know) what 
were the limitations of his own sympathies. More mortifying 
still, he betrayed (to anyone who was interested) his good 
opinion of himself, for those he chose to honour possessed 
qualities like his own, and his praise of them, his complacency 
in calling them friends, was an indirect encomium of himself. 

People could not be judged, they could not even be under- 
stood, they could only be approached in love, as he was doing 
now; and by doing so he freed himself from the chains of self, 
which were never stronger than when attached to that kind of 
platform on which a man, by criticizing those around him, really 
advertizes his own faults. 

What he felt with Vera now was the nearest thing to spiritual 
ecstasy that he, Timothy, could reach, nor was it, needless to 
say, dulled and muffled by the whisperings of argument like 
those just given. Indeed, his happiness partly consisted in not 
having to ask his mind for reasons. But all the same it rested on 
a foundation of some such unformulated thoughts, on the faith 
that security had been achieved not only in the emtional but 



386 THE BOAT 

the rational sphere. A man is grateful for the comfort of his bed, 
and does not speculate whether the mattress is of down or wool 
or horsehair ; but at the back of his mind he knows that without 
one or other of these ingredients he would not be enjoying the 
well-being that he has. 

When the curtains had been drawn and the blackout fixtures 
regulated, the room seemed snugger than ever and harder to 
leave. Leave it they must, for the evening was still young, and 
no stage in the ritual must outlast its proper length ; yet Timothy 
was loth to go, to break the barrier of timelessness that joy 
builds round itself out of the most transient materials, to forsake 
the candles, the silver and the wine: the shining surfaces, the 
deep soft colours, that had become the visible embodiment 
of his bliss. 

Yet leave it they must for it was but the threshold to a further 
state of happiness. Without the sequel, the inevitable sequel, 
their sitting thus together, not speaking much, and looking at 
each other without passion across the candle-light, would have 
had the sadness of finality and farewell that lurks in every 
rounded moment of experience. 

Yes, they must go, though going would mean a change of 
thought and feeling more radical than a political revolution, 
would re-shuffle the pieces of the kaleidoscope until the 
pattern was obliterated, would jeopardize everything that the 
spirit's quietness, in the candle-light, had attained to, would 
mean strains and stresses that the waking mind could give no 
account of, and forebore to think of, so remote were they 
from the dignified and consistent image of itself that, on its 
daily occasions, it tried to show the world. 

He opened the door for Vera to go through, and called down 
the passage, ** We've left the dining-room." As he took her 
hand to lead her across the hall he heard EfHe's answer, ''Very 
good, sir." 

'Very good, sir!' the well-worn phrase seemed to take on a 
new meaning. 

"You know. Vera," said Timothy, leaning back and trying 
to blow a smoke-ring, "you know — " He stopped. 

"What do I know, darling?" She spoke lazily and softly, 



THE BOAT 387 

but he heard quite well, for her head was resting on his shoulder. 
As he didn't speak, she added, *'If I know, perhaps it's hardly 
worth while telling me." 

''Oh yes, it is," said Timothy, pressing her hand, as though 
to convey his meaning through it. *'At least it would be, if I 
could put it into words — the difference I feel now that you've 
come back to me. It must be extraordinary to be able to do so 
much for someone without trying to." 

"How do you know that I don't try, my sweet?" 

Timothy considered this. ''You don't seem to, any more than 
a flower tries to be a flower." 

"Darling, I expect it puts every ounce of its energy into it. 
Think of being a peony. That must be a whole-time job." 

Timothy laughed. 

"You're right. I ought to have thought of something else. 
Still a peony only tries to be itself." 

"And don't I?" 

"You're not a bit like a peony, Vera darling." 

"Aren't I? Why not? A peony's such a heavenly flower." 

"I know. But it's not a bit like you. It's too red, for one 
thing." 

"Red's not a bad colour." 

"No, but it's not your colour." 

"It might be. I am rather red, as a matter of fact." 

"Are you?" said Timothy, indulgent and amused. "Are you 
a Jacobin in disguise? You don't look a bit red, my darling!" 

"Well, I am, and I'm not your only friend who is." 

Timothy tried to look at her, but she was too near for him to 
get a general view. 

"Who else is there besides you?" He asked the question idly, 
with only the faintest prick of curiosity, and as though it 
referred to someone in a book; for at the moment no one 
existed for him except her. 

"A woman I met in London, darling. She told me she knew 
you quite well." 

Timothy hitched himself up on the sofa. 

"Who?" 

"A Mrs. Vivian. But I expect she was just boasting. I don't 
suppose she ever set eyes on you." 



388 THE BOAT 

*'Magda!" exclaimed Timothy. **But of course! How strange 
you should have met her! You're quite right — she is rather 
red." But it was the personal that claimed him, and he dismissed 
Magda's political complexion from his mind. ''She's a very old 
friend of mine," he went on, sinking back into affectionate 
thoughts of Magda. ''I've known her all my life. What did she 
say about me?" 

''All sorts of nice things, but she said you were a good man 
gone wrong." 

"Dear Magda! What did you say to that?'* 

"I said we should have to try to put you right." 

"My darling, you don't have to try. I told you so a moment 
ago." 

"She said she might be coming down here." 

"But she is, next week, as soon as she comes out of the 
nursing home." 

How delightful this was! What astonishing good fortune! 
They knew and apparently liked each other, and there would be 
no need for shyness or awkwardness or explanations ; they were 
both women of the world and all would be plain sailing. 

Timothy told Vera how glad he was. 

"But, darling," she said, "how will you fit us both into your 
colour-scheme? Two reds don't make a white, you know." 

Timothy didn't understand. "Do you think of me as white?" 

"You would be to a Russian, my pet." 

Timothy laughed. "Yes, but they would tolerate me now, 
because we're all on the same side." He hesitated; even in a 
metaphor he disliked the word. "I'll try to be red, too, to keep 
you in countenance." 

"Darling, is that a promise?" 

"Of course it is." 

Vera looked round her vaguely, then, with growing purpose^ 
fulness, her eyes strayed to the clock. 

"Good heavens, it's nearly eleven. Darling, I must be going 
now." She made a movement to reach her bag. It had an 
unmistakable air of leave-taking, and Timothy's heart turned 
over. 

"Oh but Vera! — " She turned to him in surprise. "Oh 
Vera, you can't go yet!" How well he remembered her won- 



THE BOAT 389 

dering look. 

''Not go?" she repeated. ''But I must. Frances is ex- 
pecting me." 

"Oh but, Vera darling, it's our first evening together for . . . 
for I don't know how long. I've been so looking forward to it." 

"But, my treasure, you've had it, as they say. We've had a 
lovely time." 

In his agitation Timothy got up and looked down at her 
imploringly. "But Vera, it's only just beginning — I mean we've 
seen so little of each other." The words seemed inadequate, 
they had an ambiguous, vulgar ring that travestied his emotion. 
He reddened, and said hastily, "Please stay, Vera darling, 
like . . . like you used to." 

"Like I used to?" she said, staring up at him with a blank 
face. 

He took her limp hand in his and wrung it. "Yes, please, 
Vera, like you did those . . . those other evenings, don't you 
remember?" As she still showed no sign of understanding what 
he meant, he went on, more and more wretched and em- 
barrassed. "You didn't leave at eleven then . . . no, nor at 
twelve, either." 

She dropped her eyes from his face, withdrew her hand from 
his, and said, "I'm afraid I don't understand what you're talking 
about." 

"Oh but you must remember, my darling," cried Timothy, 
agonized and frightened. "Please, please think back!" He tried 
to find reminders more explicit, shied away from them, and 
sighed. "We were everything to each other, then," he went on 
despairingly, feeling as though she had gone deaf or turned into 
another person. "You can't, you can't have forgotten!" He 
tried to possess himself of her hand again, but she drew it 
back. "You can't have forgotten!" he repeated. "Why, I 
haven't thought of anything else!" 

But no gleam of recognition came into her face, and she only 
said, "I'm afraid you are mistaken, darling. You've been 
imagining things. There was never anything o{ . . . of that sort 
between us." 

Desperately Timothy tried a last appeal. "But tlie dressing- 
gown and the bedroom slippers — " 



390 THE BOAT 

"Yes," said Vera, **I remember giving them you." He stared 
at her with a fixed look of entreaty. ''But you've never been my 
lover," she added softly. 

With a blind gesture Timothy turned and sat down in the 
chair furthest away from her, and put his head in his hands. 

So he remained for a time, feeling much and thinking little, 
and the next thing he was aware of was her voice, saying, 
''Good'night, Timothy," and he looked up and saw her in her 
slender tallness with her bag under her arm and her hand coming 
slowly towards him in farewell. He got up awkwardly and 
uncertainly, but he could not look at her and did not take her 
hand. 

"Good-night, Timothy," she repeated. 

He tried to frame the well-worn words but they would not 
come. In spite of everything he could not believe that she was 
leaving him, and all he could think of to say was, "Why must 
you treat me so unkindly?" 

She looked down at him in a puzzled way and said, "Un- 
kindly, darling? But I haven't treated you unkindly. We've had 
a lovely evening, at least I have, and I thought you enjoyed it, 
too." 

"I did enjoy it," muttered Timothy. "But — " he sighed — "if 
you don't understand I can't explain to you." 

"Darling, I do know what you mean," she said. "But," she 
went on almost pleadingly, "you've got it all quite wrong, 
believe me. People often get those ideas into their heads : you're 
not the first. I expect you . . . you wanted to, and then you 
thought we had." 

Again, stealing through his misery but quite distinct from it 
came the frightened feeling, but this time it was not only her 
word that he doubted, but his own as well. Her word was as 
good as his. Could he have been mistaken? He made a little 
hopeless gesture with his hands and murmured, "I can't say any 
more." 

She looked at him sadly and pitifully. "But I can, darling," 
she said. "I hate to see you suffer when you've been so good to 
me. Only, what you thought of . . . what you spoke about . . . 
just now . . isn't easy for me. It isn't prudishness or coldness 
. . . but a sort of reserve, I suppose. But I'd do anything for you, 



THE BOAT 391 

you know I would." 

Timothy raised his eyes and seemed to see her again, not 
quite as before but less strange than she had been. But he could 
still feel no link between his mood and this new development in 
hers. 

**It isn't that I'm not fond of you," she went on, moving 
away from him towards the sofa and looking down at it, ''but it 
means something rather special to me. I suppose I'm rather . . . 
complex in these matters. Perhaps we all are." 

Automatically Timothy followed her towards the sofa. 

''That's why I'm so sure," she told him "that it hasn't been as 
you thought. I should have to be . . . bound to the person in 
rather a special way." She paused; the note of hesitancy in her 
voice invited a question. 

"Yes?" said Timothy. 

"May I sit down?" she asked. Timothy nodded but did 
not join her on the sofa. She put her bag on the arm, but she 
did not let go of it, her fingers kept playing with the strap, 
opening and closing. 

"It's a kind of hero'worship, I suppose," she said, almost 
dreamily. "Not that you're not a hero, Timothy dear. . . . But 
few men are, in the way I mean. I could love, you without it, 
and I do, but not be in love with you." Again her voice invited a 
question. 

"Tell me," said Timothy expressionlessly. 

"It sounds so silly — but won't you sit down, I don't like to 
see you standing in your own house." 

Timothy sat down at the far end of the sofa. 

"I expect I ought to have been born in another age," she 
admitted, "when men came home from the wars — they still do, 
of course, but with tin stomachs and duodenal ulcers — there's 
nothing very romantic in that!" She raised her eyebrows and 
gave Timothy half a smile. Neither his face nor his voice 
responded, but something in him warmed at her remark, 
though it was out of reach of his tongue. 

"I'm afraid I'm too old to fight," he said, shortly. 

"Of course you are, darling, and I should hate to see you in 
uniform, it makes all men look alike." 

"What could I do, then," said Timothy, "that would make 



392 THE BOAT 

me seem heroic to you?" 

She looked at him sadly. "Darling, don't be sarcastic with 
me. After all, some people would think it was I who — " She 
paused and her glance slid down her dress to her black silk 
shoes. "Actually it would take a very small thing to make you a 
hero in my eyes." 

"What?" asked Timothy bluntly. 

"Darling, you know as well as I do, and you feel the same as I 
do really." 

"You mean — " 

"Yes," said Vera, "but I want to hear you say it. Please say it, 
Timothy." 

Timothy got up from the sofa and began pacing the hearth- 
rug as though Vera was not there. 

"Please say it, Timothy," she repeated. "It's childish of you 
not to." 

With furrowed brow and stricken face Timothy maintained 
his sentry-go. 

"But what has it to do with us, Vera?" he burst out at length. 
"You and me? What possible satisfaction can it be to you if I 
do something which I know is silly? What's the good of it? 
We shan't be aijy the better for it, either of us." 

"Oh yes we shall, darling," Vera said, "because we shall have 
done something for each other." 

Timothy thought this over. "But it's so childish," he said, 
resuming his march and speaking less to her than to himself. 
"You say I'm childish because I don't want ... er ... to men- 
tion it, but you're more childish, it seems to me, to want me to, 
as if we were living in a fairy story! If it was something that 
would do you good, I wouldn't hesitate." 

"But it will do me good," Vera said. "After all, I'm the best 
judge of that. And, don't forget, it will do you good, too." 

Timothy gave an exasperated sigh. "You wouldn't want me 
to if you knew how I felt," he said. "I have an instinct against 
it — call it a complex, a fixation, a superstitition, anything you 
like. It's haunted me ever since I came here. Every time I put 
out a thought in ... in that direction, something goes wrong. 
It was all a mistake, I wasn't meant to use it. It's brought me a 
lot of trouble, and other people, too. And it would bring you 



THE BOAT 393 

into trouble, if you got mixed up with it." 

''But, darling. I'll take the risk," said Vera. 'Til go with you 
willingly." 

This brought Timothy up short. He stared down at her 
incredulously. 

"You'll go with me?" 

"Of course I will." 

"You mean," he breathed almost in a whisper, "that you'll 
go with me in the boat?" His eyes hung on her lips. 

"Ah!" she exclaimed triumphantly, "you've said it! The 
spell's broken! Yes, in the boat, any time you like. Now, if you 
like." 

She rose impulsively and came to his side and took his hand 
in hers. 

"Think what it will be like in the moonlight, on the dark 
water, gliding between the trees! It isn't late, we shall have heaps 
of time. Do come, Timothy!" 

They were behind the curtains that shielded the french 
window, invisible except to the moon and to each other. "Kiss 
me!" said Vera, and Timothy kissed her; when he attempted a 
more ardent embrace she did not resist. He was lost in the 
rapture of being reunited to her, and it was her hand that, 
straying from its endearments, found the knob and gently let 
them out. On the lawn a fresh breeze met them, stirring the soft 
tendrils of her hair, those silken skirmishers, that seemed trans- 
parent when the moon shone through them. At a distance the 
black shadows on the lawn looked almost like holes, and 
Timothy, to whose arm Vera was clinging, instinctively guided 
her away from them, until at a closer view he saw that they, too, 
were moving with the gentle restlessness of the night. Down the 
grassy slope they stumbled, laughing and holding each other up ; 
they crossed the moon-blanched lawn and took the path behind 
the shrubbery, which was too dense for moon or breeze to 
penetrate. And so they came to where the bamboos rustled, 
and sketched their spiky shadows on the walls and windows and 
peaked roof of the boathouse. 

They key turned rustily and the door moved inwards 
grudgingly, as though someone was holding it against them. 
He left it open, for inside the darkness was so thick that at first 



394 THE BOAT 

they could see nothing but the dusky oblongs of the windows 
and the glimmer of the water at their feet. 

*'I ought to have brought a torch," muttered Timothy. 

**Try my lighter, darling." 

By the lighter's tiny flame they could only see each other, 
poised on an abyss from which came gentle whisperings and 
creakings. But when it dwindled and went out they began to see 
more clearly : a pale light as of dawn stole through the stained- 
glass windows; objects began to take on shape and meaning; 
something, not a mere random assemblage of surfaces, lay 
beneath them, something that seemed to have sense and will and 
intuition, and was offering itself to them: the boat. 

**I can't see the sculls yet," whispered Timothy. 

He spoke in a whisper partly because all the sounds he heard 
were whispered sounds, but chiefly because it was a place in 
which he had never raised his voice since the day the boat 
was first entombed. He felt as he might have felt in a church 
at midnight, as a body-snatcher in a graveyard might have 
felt. . . . 

* 'Darling, you're trembling," Vera said. Her voice was 
incredulous and amused, but did not penetrate to the seat of his 
fear. "You'll soon get warm rowing." 

"I haven't been in here for over a year," he muttered, more 
to himself than to her. ''I don't seem able to get used to it. . . . 
Should you mind if ... if we didn't. Vera?" 

''Darling, it isn't I who'll mind, it's you." 

The tender edges of his consciousness struck against the steel 
thread in her voice. 

"Do you still feel the same about . . . about everything?" 

"How I wish I didn't, my treasure." 

Timothy could see the sculls now, they were hanging, one 
above the other, on supports on the opposite wall: two long, 
pale yellow shafts, for the blue blades were still invisible. 
Cautiously he edged his way to them, clinging to the sides of the 
boathouse, for the floor was damp and slippery, and nowhere 
more than eighteen inches wide. If he turned his head he could 
see Vera's hand and arm stretched down the doorpost, silver 
in the moonlight; the rest of her was in shadow, and she 
seemed very far away, almost in another life, while the project 



THE BOAT 395 

to which she had committed him came nearer and nearer, 
presenting itself as something of tremendous complexity and 
peril, utterly beyond his strength. A few minutes ago it had 
seemed a simple undertaking ; now the taboos which had grown 
up round the thought of it crowded into his mind, each with its 
warning message. But he struggled on; he had rounded two 
corners and his hand was on the handle of the scull when he 
heard the cry. Like an owl's cry yet unmistakably human, it 
made a furrow through the night. 

"Hullo'o!" 

He listened; the cry was repeated and seemed to come from 
nearer to. 

''Don't pay any attention," Vera's voice was urgent. "Who- 
ever it is, he'll soon go away." 

But Timothy was already making the return journey over the 
treacherous flagstones, much more quickly than he went. 

''Don't go, don't go!" Her fluttering arms, stretching towards 
him in the darkness, barred his way. 

"I must see who it is. Wait for me. I'll come back." 

"You won't." 

Timothy pushed past her and ran down the dark path on to 
the moonlight'flooded lawn. Above him on the terrace a man 
was standing, turning his head this way and that. "Hullo!" he 
shouted, then saw Timothy and stood still. 

Breathing quickly, Timothy came up to him. 

"I'm so sorry, Casson," said a pleasant voice, with a stiffening 
of authority in it that disclaimed apology. "But I thought you 
ought to know that you forgot to draw your curtains, and 
there's a beam of light coming out that you can see from the 
road. I'm the Air Raid Warden." (He omitted to say that he 
was also Colonel Harbord). "I knocked and rang, but I couldn't 
make anyone hear, so I came into the garden on the chance you 
might be about.. I hope you didn't mind." He kept his voice 
perfectly civil, clear of reproof. 

Timothy thanked him and they walked quickly back towards 
the accusing beam, in which as they drew near it, the blades of 
grass on the shorn turf stuck out in vi\'id articulation, as white 
as if they had been frosted. 

"Won't you come this way?" said Timothy. "It'll be quicker 



396 THE BOAT 

for you." 

Colonel Harbord hesitated a moment, then, with a formal, 
^That's very kind of you,' he followed Timothy through the 
french window. The latch clicked; the curtains, almost with 
the abandon of stage curtains, clashed together behind them. 
Blinking in the brightly lighted room they saw the hearthrug in 
folds where Timothy's feet had puckered it; demoralized 
cushions crushed out of all shape ; and, on the arm of the sofa, 
dominating all, palpably in possession, Vera's pale blue bag. 

The room was less embarrassing when Timothy returned to 
it, after saying a crisp goodnight to Colonel Harbord. Indeed, it 
was almost seductive; and when he had put the hearthrug 
straight, and plumped the cushions out, and put Vera's bag in a 
less challenging position, and exchanged a confidence with the 
cloisonne vase, he did not want to leave it. He did not want to 
leave it for the murky interior of the boathouse where swayed 
and slept on the stagnant water a direful deity, and where leaned 
against the lintel the priestess of the cult, all silvery white down 
one side and black through the rest of her body. 

He knew he ought to go, but still he lingered, blunting his 
intention with delaying thoughts. Would Colonel Harbord 
have stayed for a drink, if Timothy had asked him? His de- 
meanour had not been altogether unconciliatory. He seemed a 
friendly sort of man, a little stiff, perhaps. But what if Vera had 
come in, in the middle? Timothy tried to picture the scene, but 
his imagination could not carry it through to any but a disas- 
trous conclusion. 

He sighed and thought of Vera in the boathouse. How long 
the time must seem to her. He must go, of course, but before he 
went he would collect a few things for the expedition; some 
cushions and a rug for her, her fur wrap which was in the hall, 
his electric torch which might be in his bedroom. They needed 
lots of things, really. All this would take time. 

How silent the house was, as he prowled round it! What a 
quality of expectancy and secrecy the lights had, screened from 
all participation with the night! So, too, was he cut off, a 
moving shadow among shadows that were fixed, invisible from 
without and hardly visible from within. 

It was a long job but at last he was ready. He had collected 



THE BOAT 397 

everything they would and some things that they would not 
want, but it was better to be on the safe side. Bowed and 
lopsided he let himself out through the side door, not wishing 
to disturb the drawing-room curtains. In the moonlight his 
misshapen shadow looked like Father Christmas. 

But when he reached the boathouse, it was empty. 

She can't have gone far away, he thought, and searched the 
bushes round about, and peered among the rushes and ven^ 
tured to use his torch in the darker places, and called her softly 
by name. But she did not answer, and he returned to the 
boathouse, half expecting to find her leaning against the lintel ; 
but there was no one. 

Slowly he started back again, and what was his astonishment 
to see, as he rounded the dark bastion of the shrubbery, the 
beam of light from the drawing-room lying like a sword across 
the lawn. ■ 

He hastened towards it, curbing in himself any impulse to 
reproach her, for it was he who was at fault for leaving her so 
long; and the words of apology were already on his lips when 
he entered the room. But he checked them, for there was no one 
there, no one and nothing; even her bag had gone. But yes, there 
was something, a pencilled note lying on the back of the sofa. 
His heart sank as he approached it. Without any conscious 
act of reading, the message printed itself on his mind. 

**Dear Timothy, 

**I have given you up. You won't expect me to explain why, 

"Vera." 

Timothy waited a few minutes in increasing agitation and 
then telephoned. Vera might be home by now. He heard the bell 
ringing, but no one came to answer it. 

He went to bed but his thoughts gave him no rest. *I have 
given you up' might simply mean that she was tired of waiting 
for him ; he tried to cling to that, but it was like a rock in a rising 
tide and he was soon dislodged. In the huge, encirchng seas 
not a raft, not a spar appeared ; not a gleam from the shore he 
had started from, not an intimation of land ahead. He was cut 
off from the past and the future, and the present had nothing 



398 THE BOAT 

for him but this ceaseless tossing. Already he felt a nausea 
akin to seasickness. 

He sat up and turned on the light, and with the disengaged 
fragment of his mind asked himself some questions. Why had 
he got into this state? What was it all about? He was there, the 
same Timothy as yesterday, safe in his comfortable bed. True 
he did not feel very well, but that was just a functional dis' 
turbance of his nervous system and would soon pass. No dire 
disease threatened him. He had lost some money, he would have 
to be careful and economical, his solicitor had more than once 
told him so ; but he was in no danger of bankruptcy or any kind 
of public exposure, and if he was, he had friends who would 
come to his rescue — one of them was shortly coming to stay 
with him. A girl had given him up — thrown him over might 
be a more accurate way of putting it ; but did not that happen to 
scores of people ? — people in their first youth for whom such a 
set-back might well seem the destruction of a lifetime's hopes? 

Why then did he feel so wretched, so . . . why be afraid of a 
word? so suicidal? 

Suppose he was with the army in some distant land, sur^ 
rounded by foes waiting to kill him, how paradisal, by contrast, 
would his present state appear! Or suppose he was in the Air 
Force, as Edgell was, with the machine out of control and the 
ground rushing up to meet him! How enviable, then, to be 
Timothy Casson, sheltered from the malice of the elements, 
with nothing worse to complain of than a mild disappointment, 
a slight concussion of the feelings, so impalpable that no seismo- 
graph on earth could measure it! Was he not really very lucky, 
compared with ninety-nine people out of a hundred ? 

For a moment Timothy did almost feel lucky, and his mental 
pain withdrew as far as the end of the bed. But soon he felt 
it coming towards him, in thin layers of blackness, to envelop 
him in its clinging embrace. 

Suppose he was in a German concentration camp, and this 
light that was shining in his eyes was ten times, a hundred times 
brighter. Then his dressing gown hanging on the door would be 
the Questioner, and the bed-posts torturers. The fire-irons 
would be their instruments and in the empty grate a fire could 
be quickly lighted. The clothes lying about the floor and sagging 



THE BOAT 399 

over chair-backs would be his clothes, for in an interrogation of 
this sort the victim would be told to strip. So Timothy was not 
lying warm in bed but shivering on the cold floor and the 
Questioner, bringing the thousand-volt lamp nearer to his 
sleepless eyelids, said, ''Now, for the last time, will you tell me 
what they make in the factory on the hills above Upton?" 
Timothy moistened his lips and tried to say, ''I can't tell you 
because I don't know," but the words wouldn't come. ''You 
don't know?" said the Questioner, bringing the lamp so close 
to Timothy that the heat from it scorched his face; "then we 
shall have to jog your memory." At once the bedposts began to 
close in on him, slender-looking trunks but with the strength 
of steel in them, and they dragged him over to the fireplace 
where the fire-irons and other sharper-looking instruments were 
glowing behind the bars. Then the Questioner, whose face was 
only in his voice, said, "Have you ever known what it is to be in 
pain?" and Timothy, who could now remember only one thing 
from his past life, answered, "Yes, the night that Vera Cross 
gave me up." "And is that all the pain you have ever felt?" asked 
the Questioner; "all the pain you have felt in fifty-one years?" 
Timothy tried to remember, but his mind went blank. "What 
we are going to do to you now," the Questioner said softly, 
"will hurt you so much that you will look back on the night 
you spoke of as the happiest in all your life." He paused, and 
then barked out, "Put him on the floor, and start with the soles 
of his feet." The shadows of the torturers, driven forward by 
the light behind, advanced and converged on him. . . . 

Still possessed by the dream, Timothy opened his eyes, 
wondering where he was. As his terror began to loosen its hold 
he realized that he had fallen asleep with the light on. Sleepily 
he turned it off and after a moment saw the pallor of daylight 
on the ceiling above the curtains. His mind too deeply drugged 
by deliverance to be accessible to further pain, he turned over 
and slept. 



400 THE BOAT 



CHAPTER XXVI 

Several times during the day Timothy rang Vera up but she 
was always out. He whiled away an hour and more at the 
Fisherman's Arms, involuntarily turning his head when anyone 
came in, but his patience went unrewarded. As aforetime, at 
the beginning of their acquaintance, he hung about the village 
street at the times when she used to take the children for a walk. 
But not a glimpse of her did he get. And it was the same the 
next day and the next. In giving him up she had given up all her 
old habits. She had become invisible; and if it had not been for 
Frances's matter-of-fact announcements that she was out, he 
might have concluded that she had gone away from Upton. 

He got through the days somehow because hope dawned 
anew each morning, waxed brighter as the day wore on, and 
only set when he laid his head on the pillow. Then his sufferings 
began in earnest. For several nights he had recourse successfully 
to scenes of horror; every inhuman act that the newspapers 
had recorded and that imagination could devise was re-enacted 
in Timothy's bedroom. It became a torture-chamber. And 
when he banished the bogies, and called back reality to his 
comfort, he would fall asleep. 

But whoever tampers with reality does so at his peril. 
Timothy's reactions to his fancied horrors grew weaker, 
presently they ceased, and a night came when, instead of acting 
as a counter-irritant they joined forces with the foe, and 
Timothy lay in a kind of waking nightmare in which the terrors 
of Belsen and Buchenwald were reinforced by the nameless 
misery of his own plight. He could not divide them ; he could 
not turn from one to the other, for they were on both sides of 
his pillow. 

Nor did the phantoms he had summoned up abandon him 
during the day. They lurked in corners, only awaiting black- 
out time to come out and claim him. He was conscious of their 
presence all day long. They even followed him into the open air 
and accompanied him on the long walks with which he sought 



THE BOAT 401 

to tire himself. Still trying to find an antidote, for happiness 
does not give in without a struggle, he now compelled his mind 
to dwell on Magda's visit. What fun they would have! How 
Magda's cosmopolitan outlook, and bright, shadowless mind 
would chase away these rustic spectres! How silly and trivial 
all his preoccupations would seem! The village would be 
reduced to its true scale, that is to say, it would be invisible. 
He wouldn't mind if she were a little cruel about it, he would 
even welcome jokes at Upton's expense. How they would laugh 
at it! In anticipation, and to keep his sense of humour lively, 
Timothy let out a trial guffaw; the meadows rang with it and a 
man who was walking along a hedgerow some distance away 
looked round in surprise. Embarrassed, Timothy met his glance. 
It was Wimbush. 

His ex-gardener came towards him, a broad smile on his face. 
They shook hands. 

**Why, sir, it's pleasant to hear you laugh so hearty-like," 
said Wimbush. 'To tell you the truth, and meaning no dis^ 
respect, I thought it was a jay." 

"I'm afraid I was laughing at my own thoughts," said 
Timothy, already finding humour up-hill work. 

"And what better should a man have to laugh at?" said 
Wimbush, stoutly defending Timothy against the reproach of 
eccentricity. "My mother used to say, 'You must learn to laugh 
at nothing, for often there's nothing to laugh at.' Ha! ha! And 
that's true, isn't it, sir?" 

"It is indeed," said Timothy, whose thoughts immediately 
took a soberer hue. 

"'Tisn't everyone as sees what it means, not at the first 
onset." 

They talked for a time of matters that concerned each other; 
of Wimbush's new job, of Timothy's new gardener; each 
allowed himself the luxury, and the other the compliment, of 
regret. 

"If it hadn't been for that other one in the kitchen!" sighed 
Wimbush, and they both shook their heads. 

"But I hear as they're both leaving now," Wimbush went on, 
putting a great deal of delicacy into tlie statement. "Would that 
be true, sir?" 



402 THE BOAT 

Timothy said it was. 

''Now Effie, she'll be a real loss," said Wimbush. "And I 
don't care who hears me say it. Another year or two, and we 
should have got sort of used to her, as we have to you, sir. It's 
these people that come and go so you can't keep track of 
them, they're the drawback." 

"Um," said Timothy. They were walking along side by side 
and the sense of their old familiarity had returned. 

"Mr. Edgell, of course, he's a bit of a harumscarum," 
Wimbush said. "But being in the Army do tone a man down, 
even if it's only the Air Force." 

Timothy said something in praise of Edgell. 

"You're quite right, sir, only with that stomach of his he 
ought to lay off the ladies." 

Timothy glanced at Wimbush in surprise. 

"You haven't heard, sir?" 

Timothy protested ignorance, but Wimbush did not reply 
immediately. 

"'Twas what I meant by a drawback, sir," he said obliquely, 
"when you can't keep a proper check on 'em. Of course if I 
hadn't had the privilege of serving you for a long time, sir, and 
hadn't left of my own accord, I shouldn't be saying this." 

"But you haven't said anything!" cried Timothy. 

"It wouldn't be my place, sir, you not knowing. But there's 
many here who wish you well, sir, as are quite glad it should be 
him instead of you." 

Timothy stood still and Wimbush stood still, too. 

"Do you mean — ?" Timothy began. 

"I don't mean nothing, sir," said Wimbush, holding his 
ground, "only what I said. And I only said that because I 
thought you knew, and as man to man, though only a servant." 

Timothy guessed what Wimbush meant, but could not rest 
until he had turned suspicion into certainty. Making a great 
effort he said, "How do you know this?" 

"Why, sir, I've seen them together down by the river, and 'tis 
common talk." 

"You mean Miss Cross, of course?" 

Wimbush nodded. "We thought you'd ceased to take an 
interest, sir," he said, noticing Timothy's expression. "And we 



THE BOAT 403 

do feel it's all for the best." 

'Telix! Felix!" cried Timothy. 

Down in the gully below them a little stream meandered, deep 
in summer rushes; and along this the retriever was galloping, 
every now and then stopping so abruptly that he almost threw 
himself into the air. Even from here one could feel his anxiety 
lest any detail of his business should escape him through 
inattention ; it was a deeply personal matter, no one could see to 
it but himself. Down went his head and his tail waved to and 
fro, the varying rapidity of its movement answering to the 
intensity of his thoughts. 

'Telix! Felix!" Timothy called again. "Oh, that wretched 
dog! He won't do as he's told. He's just like he was when you 
were with me." 

But in saying this he did Felix an injustice, for the dog with 
a headlong sweep abandoned his cherished investigations and 
came racing up to where they stood. 

Wimbush patted him and Felix, his eyes welling with delight, 
began to set in motion the cumbrous machinery of his affection. 

"Down, Felix! Down!" 

*T don't mind him, sir," said Wimbush. "'Twas a pity he 
would muck up the flower-beds, but perhaps I was overhasty 
with him. How's the new man getting on?" 

"All right, I think, but to tell you the truth I don't see much 
of him." 

Wimbush shook his head, as though this was only to be 
expected, and Timothy asked him how he liked his new job. 

"'Tis all right, sir, but I get fed up with trapesing along that 
old river and nobody to talk to." They had said all this before. 

"You never see Mrs. Lampard, I suppose?" 

"Bless you no, sir, she's locked up, as a good many other 
people in this parish ought to be, if right was right." 

As he spoke, a shadow seemed to darken the hillside, quench- 
ing the uncertain sunlight of the summer and deepening the 
pain in Timothy's mind. 

"Anyhow I'm very glad we met, Wimbush," he said, trying 
to feel his way towards a gap in the surrounding blackness. 

"And me too, sir," said Wimbush. "And I hope we shall 
soon meet again when we haven't neither of us so much on 



404 THE BOAT 

hand." With this tactful reference to the fact that he was busy 
Wimbush was moving away; then he recollected something. 
" 'Twas better not to leave you to find our, sir. Me telling you, 
that knows your style of thinking, as well as if it was my own, 
you won't fret half so much." 

"Thank you, Wimbush." 

Timothy put Felix on a lead and found, for the first time, that 
the retriever's persistent tugging and sudden starts after an 
invisible quarry were a relief rather than an irritation. They 
employed his mind as well as his body, and there was something 
forthright in Felix's nature that demanded an immediate 
response. One knew where one was with him. Not altogether, 
of course. An air of exemplary meekness was often the prelude 
to an act of signal disobedience. And sometimes he dissembled 
his love under an affectation of indifference, in order to take 
the victim by surprise. But he never concealed his indifference 
under a cloak of love. 

It was most painful to Timothy to be angry with Vera; for 
his own peace of mind he instinctively invented excuses for her. 
If he could persuade himself that the breach was his fault it 
made him almost happy. But he never could, for long together. 
He did not really believe that she had given him up because of 
the boat. The boat was a pretext. But he was handicapped 
in his efforts to get to the root of the matter by his unwillingness 
to think about the boat at all. The part of his mind where it 
lay, like a parasite encased in wax, was almost impenetrable to 
the probings of reason. 

Edgell had stolen Vera from him; that was the true explana^ 
tion. Young, handsome and attractive, he had come as a sneak- 
guest to Timothy's house and cast a spell on Vera. He had 
betrayed the laws of hospitality to do him this great wrong. 
Vera really loved him, Timothy ; she had come prepared to tell 
him so. Then this pale and interesting stranger, romantic- 
looking in his Air Force uniform, had laid lightning siege to her 
heart. All the evening she had struggled against it but it had 
been too much for her and, snatching at the boat as an excuse, 
she had given Timothy up. What more natural? What had he to 
offer, what baits for love, compared with this martial invalid 
who, he remembered now, had an easy way with women and a 



THE BOAT 405 

fatal knowledge of the hearts of blondes ? 

At the time, he had to admit, he had felt sorry for Edgell, 
who seemed to be disconcerted by Vera's challenging manner. 
In reality it was an instinctive defence against a method of attack 
which Edgell had practised too often and too successfully. 
Now she was in thrall to a man who would do nothing for her, 
who would not think of marrying her, but would make her the 
victim of a hopeless attachment and the subject, perhaps, of a 
flashy and commonplace short story. 

So Timothy reasoned and bade his mind stoke up the fires of 
his anger against Edgell, the cad, the heart-breaker, the abuser 
of hospitality. He told himself that but for Edgell he and Vera 
would now be enjoying the felicity of last August. Oh that 
he had never asked him to the house ! Or if Edgell had come at 
some other time, at any time but that! How cruel of Fate to 
have ordained this fatal conjunction, setting the wolf where he 
the lamb might get ! Miserably Timothy re-lived in memory all 
the circumstances that led up to the meeting, reminding himself 
of all the steps he might have taken to prevent it. Now he 
would never get Vera back ; in her passions she was reckless and 
wholehearted, as he had cause to know. She was love's play^ 
thing, as she had been his. 

But had she been? She said she hadn't. 

He stirred in his chair. How changed the room was from the 
old days when he had felt almost a fondness for its shabby, 
unpretentious comfort. Now it watched him coldly, with an 
alien regard; even Mrs. Purbright's vase, so companionable to 
moods of the middle register, between joy and sorrow, had 
nothing now to say to him. No one had anything to say to 
him. ... 

The telephone bell rang. 

''Hullo, who is it?" 

''Oh, Mr. Casson. . . ." 

For a moment he did not recognize the voice. "Yes?" — rather 
impatiently. 

"It's Volumnia Purbright." Edged with anxiety though it was, 
her voice took its welcome for granted. 

"Yes, Mrs. Purbright?" He could not feel his old ati'ection 
for her, he could not. 



406 THE BOAT 

"You don't sound very well. I hope you are?" 

"Quite well, thank you." 

"I'm so glad. I had a feeling you might not be." 

"I have been a little bit under the weather." 

"Fm so sorry. Is there any chance of seeing you?" 

"Well, just at the moment. ..." 

"Of course, I understand. And what I had to say I can say 
just as well now. But I'm afraid it will be tiresome — I apologize 
in advance." 

"I'm sure it won't be." 

"Mr. Casson, it's about Edgell. . . . Hullo?" 

"Oh yes," said Timothy tonelessly. 

"I'm not quite happy about him. You see, there's so little 
for him to do here, everyone in the neighbourhood seems to be 
away, and w^e are such a dull old couple." 

"Oh no, Mrs. Purbright," said Timothy, mechanically. 
"You mustn't say that." 

"Yes, I'm afraid we are. You have been so good to him, and 
he likes you so much — he's quite devoted to you, you know." 

"Is he?" Timothy scarcely tried to disguise his scepticism. 

"Yes, he is. He's a little in awe of you, of course." 

"Of course," said Timothy, playfully ironic. 

"Well, with the respect of an unfledged for an established 
writer. How badly I put it, and you have travelled so far beyond 
the need of hero-worship." 

"Yes, I am getting rather old." 

"Oh no, Mr. Casson." Timothy could now hear the nervous 
intonations in her voice quite well. "How I wish I could see you 
— this wretched instrument, I'm such a duffer at it. We all owe 
you so much, and I hate to go on imposing on you, but if you 
did have a minute to spare, and could give Edgell another little 
talk about writing, he ... he would value it so much." 

"I'm afraid those things can't be taught," said Timothy. 

"Of course not, of course not. But in conversation so many 
hints are thrown out, so many sparks fly — and something is 
communicated. Even on the telephone." Mrs. Purbright gave a 
nervous little laugh. "Who should know it better than I?" she 
went on, uncertainly. "I have often felt it was a shame — it has 
saddened me to think, Mr. Casson — that you should have been 



THE BOAT 407 

here so long — well, not very long really — and only we. . . . But 
I've said all this before. ..." Timothy's silence produced 
another nervous laugh, almost a giggle. "But you are what I 
hope I may call a friend of the family, and if you did feel you 
could give Edgell — I won't say encouragement, but — " 

"Mrs. Purbright," said Timothy brutally, "it's no good. 
Your Edgell has many qualifications, I'm sure; but you can 
take it from me, he'll never make a writer." 

His laughter, as hysterical as on the evening of the smoking 
concert, filled the little room with descending arpeggios 
of mockery. Its effect must have carried to the other end of the 
telephone, too. Timothy heard an exclamation like a cry, the 
cry of someone who has been physically wounded ; and then a 
buzzing that showed the line was clear. 

Hateful to himself he went back to his chair, where the 
familiar pattern of what he saw brought back the familiar pat- 
tern of his thoughts. But another strand, darker if not more 
painful, was interwoven with them. How could he have spoken 
so cruelly to Mrs. Purbright? And taken so much pleasure in 
doing it, as if she was to blame for his loss of Vera? Alas, the 
answer was only too obvious, but its very obviousness made the 
lapse the more unpardonable. And he, too, would suffer for it — 
for he had lost, at one blow, Mrs. Purbright's friendship and 
the sense of self-respect which, badly holed as it was, had served 
him as a kind of raft — enabling him, with some hope of rescue, 
to run up distress signals to catch the attention o{ the passer-by. 
Now he did not deserve rescuing. 

His impulse was to ring Mrs. Purbright up. If he could not 
take back what he had said, at least he could apologize for 
saying it, and try to restore the circulation between diem, 
nipped by his sudden rouglmess. After all, Edgell had not 
meant to do him any harm. Had he, Timothy, when he first 
pressed his suit on Vera, considered whether he might not be 
robbing another man? He thought of the Rectory where he 
had always been treated as a favoured guest, though heaven 
knew how Mrs. Purbright had explained her partiality' for 
him to her other friends. Now at the best his name would be 
greeted with a shrug from Edgell, a tight-lipped word of Christ- 



408 THE BOAT 

ian forbearance from the Rector, and from Mrs. Pur bright 
who knows? — perhaps a tear. 

He dragged himself from his chair and slowly made his way 
across the hall to the telephone. Just as he was putting out his 
hand to take it, the bell rang. He started, and a quiver of fright 
ran through him, as though his senses had begun to play him 
tricks. He 'took up the receiver and a voice said, ''Upton 698? 
I have a telegram for you." 

The telegram was from Magda and said that she would be 
coming the day after tomorrow. She would be bringing Nastya 
with her. She gave him the time of the train's arrival at 
Swirrelsford, and sent him her dearest love. 

Mrs. Pur bright and her wrongs forgotten, Timothy hastened 
into the kitchen and there, with Felix pinioning his feet, he 
made elaborate arrangements for the reception and entertain^ 
ment of this most cherished guest. Everything must be of the 
best, the food, the attendance, the welcome. 

Beatrice and Effie showed themselves so co-operative that 
Timothy was again on the point of asking them to stay on. But 
he still felt doubtful of the wisdom of doing that, and anyhow, 
the question could be settled, along with how many others, by 
Magda when she came. 

The stimulus of making plans, of moulding the future to his 
use, of stamping his image on events, soon passed, and when 
night came it found him hardly less depressed than before. He 
realized that Mrs. Purbright had been a life-line between him 
and what he valued, what really nourished his inner life; cut 
off from her, by his own unkindness, he was as helpless, faced 
by the task of clothing his spiritual nakedness, as a tailor 
without a tape measure. He did not know what he wanted; he 
could think of no boon to ask of the future that the future 
would not refuse to grant. So his mind occupied itself cease- 
lessly with the past, with going over all his old mistakes, 
correcting them and imagining the kind of life he would have 
had if he had acted differently. The sense of having used up the 
material of his life, of having borrowed on his expectations of 
happiness and squandered the loan, was torturing. 

Yet Magda's telegram had brought him a moment's joy, and 
though he could no longer feel it, any more than one can 



THE BOAT 409 

feel the sunshine when the sun has gone, he could cling to it as a 
fact, a proof that his low spirits were not incurable ; and as the 
hours dragged by, the promise of Magda's coming began to 
flash, like a lighthouse with a recurrent gleam, until, on the 
morning of the day, he felt, not indeed his own self, but as the 
sufferer from a chill feels when he is brought a hot-water- 
bottle. He spent the morning in a fury of activity ; the house was 
to be embowered with flowers, Magda's room, Nastya's room 
should overflow with them. From the cupboard appeared many 
of Miss Chadwick's vases that had never seen the light before ; 
the borders were pillaged and all Simpson's protests set aside. 
Flower-conscious as never before, Timothy went to and fro 
laden with blossoms. The scissors snipped, stalks and leaves 
lined the basin and littered the floor; and though in all this 
activity Timothy had the feeling that he was trying to outstrip 
something that was close at his heels, the colour and the 
fragrance found their way to his senses, if not quite to his heart. 
He deliberately encouraged in himself the feeling of excitement, 
trying to believe it was the same as happiness ; he quickened his 
movements and ran from place to place, just as someone might 
who was deliriously happy; and he could see by the light 
reflected on their faces that he had deceived Beatrice and Effie, 
even if he had not succeeded in deceiving himself. 

There was the afternoon still to get through, and Timothy 
employed it by making a shopping-list. Many of the items, he 
knew, would be unprocurable in these days of austerity; but 
perhaps he could find some bath-salts, a pat of soap with a 
French name on it, some yellow roses, in which the garden was 
entirely lacking — and when he saw the shops themselves, other 
ideas would spring into his head. 

He set off in his car early, to be in time before the shops shut. 
By now his impatience was really genuine; change of environ- 
ment, and the wonderful pick-me-up of extravagance, had 
effectually banished his black mood. The shops themselves were 
far from encouraging, but in his passion for purchase he did not 
scruple to buy things that had only the faintest bearing on 
Magda's visit. Its mere scarcity made an object desirable and 
soon the back seat of the car was heaped witli shoe cream, a 
bicycle lamp, anchovies in brine, cherries in brandy, weighty 



410 THE BOAT 

fancy cakes of brilliant hue, olive oil, an egg-whisk, a hair-sieve, 
elastic, hair-slides, cigarettes, matches, saucepans, and many 
other things that might be useful or enjoyable, if one had a 
crisis, equivalent to shipwreck, in one's daily life. Each acquisi- 
tion conferred a sense of power, and by teatime Timothy, the 
master of all these treasures, was also master of himself. 

The train came in, forty minutes late. It was natural that 
Magda should not appear at once; she would have so many 
packages to collect, or to have collected for her. Timothy stood 
at the gate, watching the passengers go through. The soldiers on 
leave had tired faces, deeply sunburnt, and empty sometimes to 
the point of vacancy. Bowed beneath their equipment they 
walked with a clatter of hobnailed boots, laughing and barging 
into each other. Anonymous, indifferent faces, these, not like 
the faces he was used to seeing, which reflected his moods 
almost as if they had been mirrors. Each of them was the centre 
of a complete solar system, impenetrable to Timothy and his 
problems. He found the thought soothing. 

Now the stream was growing thinner ; soon it was the merest 
trickle, leaving the platform bare. A whistle blew, the train drew 
out. A few of the station staff pottered about, relaxed and 
careless; but Magda was not among them. 

She had missed the train. 

Not unduly disheartened, Timothy settled down in an hotel 
in Swirrelsford to await the next. It was due in about three 
hours' time, a porter told him. 

He telephoned to Effie, announcing his change of plan. 
Sitting in the lounge, he again felt the attraction of being un^ 
known and adrift in an alien but not hostile world. To this 
was added, as he dined, an anticipation of the joy of seeing 
Magda keener even than before ; it was as though he was going 
to find her again, after having lost her. She had become his 
favourite woman, his beloved, his only friend. In this sanguine 
mood he returned to the station. Ten o'clock brought the sun- 
set, but did not bring the train. Not until the shadows had made 
their final pounce was he aware of a dull thudding in the east 
which deepened into a roar and then subsided into a rattle as 
the shuttered train, like a mortuary on wheels, clanked fur- 
tively past him. Narrow cones of dirty light in which the smoke 



THE BOAT 411 

Still swirled were all he had to see by ; he would have to recog- 
nize her by her silhouette, the slight stoop which was so far 
from being deferential. Once he thought he saw her and 
started forward, but it was not her, and he had to stifle the 
greeting that was rising to his lips. 

The slow drive back, with lights so dim they hardly reached 
the hedgerows, was a new exercise in disappointment. No doubt 
an explanation awaited him — Magda's movements were often 
capricious — but an explanation is no substitute for an arrival, 
and it was an arrival that Ef&e was expecting when she flung the 
door open, letting out a glare of hospitable light, that had to be 
immediately quenched. Timothy saw the house as it would 
have looked, transformed by Magda's presence ; then he had to 
tell Effie, and remind himself, that she had not come. ''But I 
expect you knew," he added, blinking in the bright light shed 
by a chandelier that was not in ordinary use; ''there will have 
been a telegram or something." Effie, shrunk to half her former 
size, and with all the lustre gone out of her, shook her head. 
"Nothing at all, sir, and we've made it look so nice." Timothy's 
assurance that it would look just as nice next day did not seem 
to console her, nor did it convince Timothy, for preparations 
timed to celebrate an occasion do not keep beyond it, and the 
house looked absurdly overdressed, lacking the reason for 
which it had been embellished. 

Under the assault of artificial light, some of it coming 
from unshaded bulbs, the flowers, too, looked artificial, and 
their gaiety seemed strained and unspontaneous, as of flowers in 
a sick-room meant to banish the impression of illness. Even as a 
contribution to Magda's exotic effect they would perhaps have 
been exaggerated; as an end in themselves they were a failure, 
lowering the spirits they were meant to raise, and bringing out 
the shabbiness they were meant to hide. The rooms, as Timothy 
wandered through them, put him in mind of an old woman, 
made up and bedizened for a party that has not come off, there 
was even something macabre about them, a hint of the ceno- 
taph. He did not like to think of the flowers watching all night 
in the unoccupied rooms, and had a mind to huddle them in 
the hall and on the landings, as they do in nursing homes, as 
they did, perhaps, in Magda's. It cost him an effort to go into her 



412 THE BOAT 

room and see amid the floral tributes the white sheet turned 
down. His own room had not escaped the universal beautifica- 
tion; Effie's solicitude had put flowers there, too; and when he 
turned on his bedside lamp, for Magda came between him 
and his sleep, he saw them looking at him with painted smiles 
and wished them away. 

Morning brought a letter from Magda. He tore it open, 
asking Efiie to wait to hear the contents, thinking, in his excite^ 
ment, that it would explain her non-arrival. It was, in fact, 
written three days ago, so slow were posts in reaching Upton ; 
but it was written after her telegram, to confirm it, she said, and 
was full of affection and anticipation. The blood-red slogan 
'Death to the Fascist dogs and traitors,' twice underlined, 
was the only direct reference to politics. She felt extremely well, 
she said, and must really give up the nursing-home habit. But 
it was the only place in London where you were properly 
looked after, and being in Grosvenor Square was convenient 
for her friends in Curzon Street. They had been most attentive, 
poor darlings, and she was glad that the rules of the home 
allowed her to offer them a drink. "I hope we shall have lots of 
river-life," she wound up; *T have brought all the necessaries, 
including a boater and a veil. Nastya thinks I'm mad. 'You'll 
never put those on,' she said. Little she knows — but of course 
not all the comrades understand that one can be present- 
able without and serious within." 

The letter recalled Magda so vividly to Timothy that it was 
almost as though she was already in the house. Even the refer- 
ence to boating did not worry him; he could easily explain to 
her his changed attitude to that recreation. Going downstairs 
he felt that the flowers were once more perfectly in place. 

Later in the morning he went into the kitchen to ask if the 
newspapers had arrived. Generally they came about midday; 
it was now nearly lunchtime. To his surprise he saw that they 
had, for Beatrice was sitting in a chair looking at The Times and 
Effie was reading it over her shoulder. So absorbed were they 
that they did not notice Timothy come in; only when Felix's 
tail began to thud upon the floor did they look up, and then it 
was only to look down again. 

"Oh, I see the papers have come," said Timothy, for the sake 



THE BOAT 413 

of something to say. ''But keep them by all means; I'm in no 
hurry for them." 

They both looked up at him blankly, and Effie turned with- 
out speaking and walked into the larder. 

It was so like something they might have done in their old, 
undismissed, unregenerate days that Timothy was not surprised. 
After all their efforts and preparations they had good reason to 
feel chagrined. 

At last Beatrice looked up. Her face was portentous. 

"There's something in the paper, sir," she said, "but I don't 
want to be the one to tell you." 

Timothy's heart turned over. 

"If you don't mind, I'd better hear," he said. 

Tears began to choke Beatrice's utterance. She rose and 
handed him the paper. "Please, sir, look for yourself," she said. 
"I can't say it." 

Timothy's eye went straight to the entry. 

VIVIAN . . . Suddenly, in a London nursing home . . . Mrs. 
Magda Vivian . . . No flowers, no mourning. 

Timothy remembered that in all his letters to Magda he had 
never once asked after her health. He had assumed that her 
frequent visits to the nursing home were simply another 
instance of luxurious living; that she went because she was 
bored, and idle, and could afford to. Indeed, by some muddled 
process of thinking, he had come to regard these disappearances 
as a proof of her perfect health. Most of her friends had done 
the same; and she was perhaps too proud and too reserved to 
undeceive them. They were not altogether to blame. Magda 
hated talking about health, her own or anybody else's; she 
did not diink it was a subject for conversation. But how 
thoughtless of him never to have given the facts their weight ; 
how callous never to have inquired! 

He sat among the flowers, the flowers that she had forbidden, 
and felt that he had failed her, as he had failed everybody else. 
No one was the happier or the better for him. He tried to keep 
his thoughts away from himself; it was unseemly, in die 
presence of her deadi, to think of anything but her. A night of 
memories and sighs. . . Yes, he had given her that, but it was a 



414 THE BOAT 

tribute to the living Magda, who was coining to relieve his 
loneliness, not to the dead one, who could do nothing for him. 
Try as he would to accord her the selfless contemplation, 
the prayerful meditation proper to the dead, he could not help 
feeling how much more desolate his own position was, now that 
she had gone. . . . 

He picked up her letter and re-read it many times. But it 
only spoke to him of a lost companionship, a friendship that 
he was too old and tired to look for elsewhere. 

So he sat with the letter in his hands, and the minutes sped 
by and Efiie, noiseless and almost voiceless, told him lunch was 
ready. He got up, and on an impulse, for the telephone room 
was on the way to the dining room, took up the receiver and 
dialled a number. 

''Oh Frances, it's Timothy here. Is Vera anywhere about?" 

''I don't think so, Timothy, but I'll go and see." 

A long pause, and then Vera's voice. 

''Hullo, Timothy. How are you?" 

"Well, a little upset as a matter of fact. But I can't tell you on 
the telephone. Any chance of seeing you?" 

"Of course, why not? I'm always here." 

"What about dinner tonight?" 

"Perfect." There was a short pause, then Vera said, "Are you 
going to strike a blow for freedom?" 

"Yes," said Timothy. 



THE BOAT 



415 



CHAPTER XXVII 



**. . . AND SO, dear Tyro, if you don't mind, I'll tell you all 
about it, and how it has come to mean so much to me, almost 
more than life itself. That won't sound so exaggerated to you 
as it would to some people, because you have always recognized 
the force of ideals, and know that they are the only things that 
really matter. I haven't always thought so, but now I do, which 
is partly why I'm writing you this long rigmarole — my apologia, 
you might call it, only that sounds so pretentious." 

Timothy paused to extract another sheet of paper from the 
finger^pinching velvet slot of the converted knife-box. 

*T don't know whether you will sympathize with me, I'm 
afraid you won't, because, actively engaged in the war as you 
are, it will all seem so trivial. And it is trivial in a way, but the 
issues aren't. Anyhow, you're almost the only person left that I 
can write to, now that Magda is gone; unless I also write to 
Esther Morwen, just to have a second witness — though I'm 
afraid she will disapprove of what I'm going to do even more 
than you will. She'll think I've become a Communist! — which I 
haven't, in the least, though a friend of mine, who's in this with 
me, is a bit red. 

"We haven't written to each other lately. I've been in an 
unsatisfactory state of mind and I knew I couldn't keep it out 
of my letters. It would be boring for you to hear about my 
troubles — sometime, when we meet, I'll tell you, if you can 
bear to listen, but the thing is, I've tracked them to their source. 
I know now why my life here has been a failure ; it's all because I 
never had the courage to put my boat on the river. I was afraid 
of all sorts of things, public opinion, hurting people's feelings, 
being unpopular, breaking the law (though I've just consulted 
some solicitors who say the law is really on my side) ; and I was 
snobbish, too; I wanted to make friends with the 'gentry' and I 
knew I never could, if I insisted on using my boat. Even die 
rumour that I meant to use it was enough to turn them against 
me. So I had no friends here except the Rector's wife, and she 



416 THE BOAT 

was always urging me to give way about the boat, and submit 
to 'their' dictatorship — for that is what it amounts to. Now I've 
quarrelled with her, about quite another matter, and I'm sorry 
in a way, but perhaps it's just as well for she wouldn't approve 
of what I'm going to do. I did make another friend — the one 
who's helping me now — but she doesn't belong to the place, 
she's a foreigner, as I am. 

**But all these eighteen months (and how long they seem, 
like a lifetime) the boat has been in my mind like an ulcer, 
poisoning it; and the more I tried not to think about it, the 
more harm it did me — we all know now what comes of har- 
bouring an obsession — it made everything go bad on me. 

''And not only on me, that's another point I realize now. 
The happiness of several other people has suffered, much worse 
than mine has. I came to live here with the best intentions, but 
I seem to have done nothing but harm. And why? Because I 
would not take action, though if I had it would have been to 
my own good and everybody else's. 

'Think, there is this lovely river, one of the most beautiful 
in England, and the only people who ever get a sight of it, 
except at the bridge and one or two other places, are a parcel of 
stuffy, retired men who are no earthly use to anyone; not only 
do they cumber the land and the water, but they keep better 
people off it. You know how easily young people get into 
mischief; according to the statistics, more than ever did before; 
the figures of juvenile crime go up alarmingly. And why? 
Because, poor things, they have nowhere to go to amuse them- 
selves except the pub and the cinema and the dance hall; they 
all pile into the Sv/irrelsford bus and spend their afternoons and 
evenings sweating indoors in a foetid atmosphere, when they 
might be on the river, in the open air, communing with Nature, 
benefiting their health, and enjoying each other's society in any 
way they like (I'm not a puritan) in romantic and poetical 
surroundings, the influence of which will remain with them 
through life, quickening their response to the beautiful — which 
is also (I'm sure you will agree with me about this, so I won't 
stop to argue it) to some extent, the good." 

Timothy paused and remembered the damaged boats at 
Swirrelsford, and the boatman's opinion of his customers. But 



THE BOAT 



417 



he dismissed these inconvenient facts from his mind, for when 
one is clearly in the right, it is both logical and laudable to 
ignore the arguments on the other side. 

''But it's the younger children I think about the most, the 
kiddies who do so love the water. You remember the 'Water 
Babies'? — I suppose it's old-fashioned now, but it's haunted 
me all my life with intimations of water-happiness, chucklings 
and gurglings — a perpetual murmur of invitation. It draws me 
by something in my blood — water on the brain, perhaps! — 
my spirit quickens the moment I see the river. And I know 
it's the same with the children here — you see them in these 
summer days splashing about in the shallow water by the 
bridge — 'schoolboys playing in the stream' — you remember that 
lovely poem of Peele's? — and looking so blissfully happy — ■ 
happy in themselves and with each other. If they could only stay 
like that — if the bright water could continue to be a condition 
of the spirit in which they could always play — they would 
never want wars or commit the horrors we are always reading 
about. In my mind's eye I can see a flotilla of nice tubby little 
boats moored by the bridge, and two or three good-natured 
boatmen ready to take out the youngsters — I wouldn't mind 
doing it myself, I can think of many worse occupations — and the 
happiness they would give, not only here, but to the children 
up and down the valley. They would come from far and near. 

"But of course that's quite out of the question, a mere 
Utopian dream, so long as these sour-faced, half-witted colonels 
and people insist on appropriating the river and what is 
ironically called 'preserving' it for their elderly and far from 
innocent pastimes, with all their expensive paraphernalia of 
murder bought in Pall Mall and St. James's Street — never 
speaking, never thinking, just watching the water for a chance 
to kill, like a cat at a mouse-hole. And instead of children's 
laughter, a tense, waiting silence, broken only by the gasp of 
a dying fish, and the grim 'That's got him!' of the fishermen. 

"I know I ought to hate them but I can't quite bring myself 
to, because of course they don't realize all the harm their selfislv 
ness is doing — not only by depriving the humbler Uptonians 
of their rights to air and health and happiness, but far and wide, 
beyond this valley, by their example, rousing resentment, 



418 THE BOAT 

Stimulating envy. People's lives ought to be made safe against 
envy, it isn't fair to expose them to it. The causes of envy 
should be rooted out and destroyed, like the causes of any other 
infection — not 'liquidated,' that's a horrid word — but somehow 
painlessly removed." 

Timothy paused and took another sheet. He felt that he was 
expressing his ideas too baldly. 

''All this is merely metaphorical, of course. I shouldn't like 
you to think I was animated by hostility to anyone, not even to 
the fishing-snobs, as someone has wittily called them. And I'm 
aware that if they had taken to me in the first place, I might not 
be writing of them as I am now. But that would have been 
weakness, the seduction of the corrupt system under which we 
live, and which perpetuates and sanctifies all this unfairness. 
What I'm going to do now will be good for 'them' as well, it 
will bring them to their senses and make them see that they 
can^t go on as they are doing — they simply must be stopped. 
They can't want to be enemies of humanity — any more than the 
Nazis, I suppose, want to be; but we had to stop them." 

Timothy thought awhile. He was uncertain about this part 
of his apologia, he did not quite know how it would sound; 
but since his reconciliation with Vera it had been running in his 
mind. 

"It may sound exaggerated and fanciful, but it seems to me 
that what happened when I came here was a kind of Munich. 
I ought to have 'declared war' at once, on the fishermen, put 
my boat on the river and taken the consequences. Then we 
should have known how we stood. It would have been from 
everyone's point of view the best course. Instead, I went in for 
appeasement. Like Mr. Chamberlain, whom I once admired, I 
let myself be put oif by promises — sackfuls, my dear Tyro, 
sackfuls of broken promises — and all the time, of course, I was 
weakening myself by inaction, while they, aware of my criminal 
hesitancy, were strengthening themselves, drawing the chains 
of tyranny tighter, and making propaganda against me through- 
out the district — especially with Mrs. Lampard, poor woman — 
I don't think you know about her, but I realize now that it was 
they, not I, who really sent her mad. If they had given way — 
well, nothing of what has happened would have happened. 



THE BOAT 419 

And by acting resolutely then, before the situation had had time 
to develop and harden against me, and before people who were 
wavering had joined the other side — I could have made them 
give way — I am sure of it. I had so many cards in my hands 
which since have all been taken from me. Then they would 
have seen with whom they had to deal, the air would have been 
cleared, they would have respected me and we should have been 
friends. 

'Tve had an instance of the same thing in my own house* 
hold. I think I told you how difficult my servants were; the 
more I tried to please them the more discontented they grew. 
They wouldn't let me have anyone to stay (which didn't matter 
much, as nobody could come), they quarrelled and made scenes 
so that at times I hardly dared go into the kitchen, they took 
offence at the slightest thing, they always thought they were 
being put upon, they made my life a burden. Until one day in a 
temper I gave them notice, and since then they have been 
angels, they can't do enough for me, and we are the best of 
friends. I suppose it's because their craving for a crisis has been 
satisfied; as long as I cheated them of that, making myself seem 
superior, which is unforgivable, they were unhappy, and so 
was I. 

**If only I had taken the same line with the fishmongers! 
But it isn't too late for a show-down, and in three days' time, 
perhaps before you get this letter, I shall have staged it. Roughly, 
my plan is this. The friend I spoke of (who more than anyone 
else has helped me to make up my mind) and I will start out in 
the boat, quite ordinarily and as though nothing has happened, 
and paddle down quietly to the village bridge. We shall be 
there by six o'clock. On the bridge will be gathered together 
all our supporters wearing their best clothes and possibly 
fancy dress and carrying the flags of the Allies, including of 
course the Hammer and Sickle. I'm a little against ha\'ing the 
Red Flag, because as you know I'm not a communist and don't 
want to be thought one. We are having posters printed, and 
bills done by hand, A Free River for A Free People, and so on, 
some of which will be stuck to the parapet and some carried 
sandwiclvfashion. Quite a few men have promised to come 
(my friend has gone from house to house and has a way with 



420 THE BOAT 

her as a canvasser) but the bulk of our supporters will be 
women and children, and young people for whom the closing 
of the river is naturally a special grievance. We hope the muster 
will be at least fifty strong. I can't tell you what fun it's been, 
collecting adherents. I had a feeling I must be unpopular in the 
village, but it turns out I am not ; of course, since we started all 
this a week ago, I have increased my subscriptions and so 
forth, as people do in such circumstances. I don't see anything 
wrong in it, do you? It's such fun arguing with the waverers. 
My friend and I have lists, of course, with the names of all the 
villagers under the headings Tor,' 'Against,' and 'Doubtful.* 
It's easier to tell who is 'against' than 'for' because the 'antis' 
show it in their face and manner, whereas I'm never sure 
whether those who welcome us with smiles are really well- 
wishers. Among the 'doubtfuls' are the village policeman and 
my old gardener, Wimbush. I rather expected that the police- 
man would be on 'their' side, being the guardian of the law; 
on the other hand I have a slight hold over him, because he 
garages his car with me and I've hinted I might not be able to 
let him keep it there any longer! Also, I've done one or two 
little things for him in the past ; and he has told me he will be at 
the bridge at the appointed hour, to 'keep an eye' on the 
gathering, in case anyone tries to break it up, which (between 
ourselves) I rather hope they will. More than that I couldn't 
get out of him; he retired, as he so readily does, behind the 
majesty of his profession, and I was quite satisfied. 

"But I own I am a little disappointed with Wimbush, 
because we were by way of being pals, and there was a time when 
he used to urge me to put the boat on the river and damn the 
consequences. Now that he is employed by Mrs. Lampard, or 
rather her agent, and gets his living from the estate, he has 
changed his tune. He says he wouldn't object (so kind of him!) 
if I did it by myself but he doesn't hold with my trying to collect 
sympathisers and setting people against each other. As if one 
could get anything done without putting people's backs up 
(haven't I tried?): the whole point is that I wouldn^t do it for 
my self y I'm doing it for everybody and to strike a blow for 
freedom. I tried to explain this to him but he kept shaking 
his head in a mulish way and saying 'I don't like it.' So we 



THE BOAT 421 

parted on that note and last time I saw him he didn't 'move to' 
me (as they say here) which hurt me, I confess. 

"On the other hand, it didn't hurt me a bit when Captain 
Sturrock (a leader of the enemy) passed me in the street and 
looked through me, instead of giving his usual curt nod. I was 
delighted, and like the Baker in the Hunting of the Snark I 
returned his stare with an impudent wag of the head. It is such a 
relief to be able to indicate one's hostility in an unmistakable 
manner — not of course that I am hostile to them, only to what 
they stand for. 

"We hold informal councils of war in the village pub, under 
the sphinx-like gaze of the landlord, whom I've not yet dared to 
sound as to his leanings. But my friend has, and she thinks he's 
on our side. The pub is a good place because, ever since the 
'foreigners' arrived in the village, the 'gentry' haven't seen fit to 
come. (By the bye, I've quite changed my mind about the 
'foreigners,' they are excellent people, easy and informal, they 
give themselves no airs and are with us to a man — or perhaps I 
should say to a woman, as most of the husbands are away). 
Here we discuss the plan of campaign and do a little quiet 
lobbying among the regulars, who are mostly farm hands and 
rather tough nuts, you can't quite tell what is in their minds 
they have such limited capacities for expression. But I rather 
think that several rounds of free drinks will have helped to 
bring them to our way of thinking. 

"We were going to have had a Grand General Meeting in the 
village hall, with refreshments and so on, but have decided to 
give that up because the hall (isn't it typical ?) is the property of 
the Church, and to hire it (for the night) you have to ask 
the Rector's permission and pay him a considerable fee. It 
isn't that I object to paying, of course (to tell you the truth, I've 
been spending money like water and am glad to part with every 
penny) but I don't think the Rector would let us have the place 
— of course he's hand in glove with 'them.' And for another 
reason I'm diffident about asking him. As I said, his wife used to 
be a friend of mine and I should be putting her as well as myself 
in a delicate position. I know that personal matters shouldn't 
come into a tiling of this kind, and I also know that though a 
*good/ well-intentioned woman, she has all along been my evil 



422 THE BOAT 

angel, trying to persuade me to submit to 'their' dictatorship. 
My friend would like me to have it out with her, but I still don't 
think one should hurt people unnecessarily, so that I content 
myself, when she rings me up — which she has done several 
times lately — by telling my housemaid to say I'm out. As a 
matter of fact I never now answer the telephone myself, 
because I've had two or three calls from strangers who have 
been quite offensive — and though I'm glad of that afterwards, 
because it shows we are making headway, it embarrasses me at 
the time." 

Timothy sighed. 

''Well, I've told you something about our preparations. I 
think we can claim to have divided the village into two camps, 
and ours is the larger. To make the division clearer my friend, 
who is really very clever with her fingers, has designed a 
'favour' for our people to wear on 'the day' — a little paper boat, 
with 'For Freedom' on it — such a charming little device. We 
shall all wear it in our button-holes. 

"I've heard rumours of 'clashes,' but nothing has been 
substantiated yet, I don't really want actual violence. My friend 
does, but I think it might prejudice our cause. One or two 
rather seedy-looking customers have come along — not to me, as 
a matter of fact — and made certain proposals, but I have been 
very much against them, at any rate for the present. I never liked 
the idea of maiming horses and burning houses when they did it 
in Ireland, though I remember you saying it was the only way 
they could convince the English government that they meant 
business, so perhaps we shall come to it in time. But I wish it 
didn't have to be animals, which are much nicer than men, or 
houses, which are more beautiful, as well as harder to replace. 
I know I oughtn't to say this — it just slipped out — the fault isn't 
in men, who are, per se, the only standard of value we have: it's 
in the system which enslaves them and of which the rape of the 
river here is a humble but crying example. 

"Well, I haven't apologized for boring you; it would be 
hypocritical, because I've done it deliberately. I got as far as 
the bridge, didn't I? The rest, as they say, is soon told. At the 
bridge there will be cheering and congratulations and I shall 
make a short speech, perhaps from the boat, perhaps on the 



THE BOAT 423 

bridge, and I shall hoist the Union Jack on the stern ; and then 
(they tell me) they're going to sing Tor He's a Jolly Good 
Fellow,' which will embarrass me, and if they must do it I think 
I shall ask them to sing. Tor We are Jolly Good Fellows,' 
instead ; it will be more comradely and make me look less of a 
pocket Fiihrer. When the jollifications are over my friend 
(who's been very kind to me) and I will continue our voyage. 
As far as Fm concerned it will be a voyage of discovery, and 
Fm most excited about it. All I know of the course of the river 
is from hearsay and the Ordnance Survey map, which at last 
Fve been able to get hold of. I don't suppose you'll want to 
think of me on the day, but in case you do, and I own I should 
rather like you to, here is a rough sketch of the 'course.'" 

Timoth dived and fetched out another sheet. He pushed aside 
those he had already written and frowned over the blank page. 
Two efforts were unsuccessful; the third produced better 
results. 

"You see it's quite a short distance — about half a mile — 
from my house to the bridge, and will be pretty plain sailing, 
I fancy. After that, the river appears to make an enormous 
loop, where the valley suddenly widens ; it doubles on its tracks, 
going first east then west, and it's just after the loop that it runs 
over the so-called Devil's Staircase, which isn't marked on the 
map, nor is the 'bottomless poor(!) at its foot — but I think 
they are more or less where Fve indicated them. When I get 
to the D.S. I shall turn back. I mean to explore it later but this 
is only a trial trip, a propaganda march, so to speak. There and 
back it will be about five miles, which is as much as I can 
manage, with so little training. I dare say my hands will be pretty 
sore, as it is, but they will be honourable scars ! — won in defence 
of our rights and liberties. 

''I don't think I have any more to say. If you ever get as far as 
this I dare say you'll smile at the idea of me as a village 
Hampden with dauntless breast withstanding the petty^ tyrants 
of these fields. 

''Since I began to write Fve somehow persuaded myself that 
your sympathies will be with me, for the sake of our old friend- 
ship ; and that even if you don't quite like what Fm doing, you 
will appreciate the reasons why I do it. And I know you will 



424 THE BOAT 

be glad to hear that I am happy — happy at last and as never 
before. When this is over I shall write you a proper letter, if I 
can, I mean a letter from me to you — a communication, not a 
manifesto ! — hardly mentioning the boat ! 

Till then, dear Tyro, believe me 
Ever yours most affectionately, 

Timothy. 
"P.S. I went up to London — for the first time since the 
war — to Magda's funeral. How changed it is! Those occasions 
are very sad, aren't they? I was thankful to get back here, where 
one has a task with the living, not with the dead. I've actually 
made my will, which I had always put off doing; however I 
found it a less depressing business than I feared. To make it was 
a recognition of reality — and now that I am living in reality at 
last, I realize what a tonic to the spirits it is. For some reason I 
felt there was a hurry, and I took the liberty of appointing you 
my executor. It was cheek, I know, and if you don't want to 
'act,' please tell me. Also I've divided my 'estate,' such as it is, 
between you and two other friends — Esther Morwen is one. 
You won't think the worse of me for telling you, will you? 
Somehow I'd rather you learnt it from me than from a stranger. 
I don't approve of people being allowed to hand on their money, 
of course ; but while the law is what it is one can only act within 
the framework of the law, and anyhow I have too little left to 
damage a principle!" 

As Timothy was re-reading his letter, Effie came in. Her air 
was businesslike and important: she might have been the 
secretary of a political leader. 

** Excuse me, sir, but Mrs. Purbright has rung up again. 
Shall I tell her you're out?" 

*Tes, please, Effie." 

The letter disposed of, Timothy took another sheet. There 
were very few left: he would have to remember to order some 
more writing-paper. But would it be worth while? 

"My dearest Esther," he began, but he could get no further; 
the letter he wanted to write to Esther refused to be written. 
Should he take Tyro's from its envelope, and copy out the 
salient passages? After all, he only wanted to tell her certain 



THE BOAT 425 

facts ; what did the personal count for, in a matter of this kind ? 
But his Uterary conscience, surviving his recent transformation 
into an agitator, refused to take this easy way; with Esther he 
must adopt a different form of approach. 

But would she ever read his letter? Would it get lost between 
the toast'rack and the tea-pot? Would one of the grandchildren 
get hold of it, and screw it into spills ? Would the servants find 
it on the floor, and hurry it off to the salvage-can before she 
had time to read it? 

A thought came to him. 

'*! am sorry to say that my two excellent maids are leaving me. 
It seems a pity, because we are getting on better than we ever 
did before; but I feel I ought to stick to my word. They are, in 
fact, due to leave me in a few days, and owing to the pressure of 
events, which I'll tell you about, I've taken no steps to replace 
them. I can still hardly realize that next week I shall be servant- 
less ! Do you, dear Esther, know of anyone who might come ? I 
know that you often take on, and train, girls from the district 
who have been unlucky in various ways ; if you are in touch with 
any who haven't, from some reason of unsuitability, been called 
up, I should be so grateful if you would put them in touch with 
me. I don't a bit mind what their sins of omission, or com- 
mission, may have been! In any case it's society's fault, not 
theirs. I'm not particular, and they will find me perfectly 
sympathetic — and a bachelor! — which I believe is a recommen- 
dation. Do see what you can do. At the same time, I don't want 
to paint my domestic position as desperate. I haven't decided on 
anything yet, but I may not be staying here much longer. It 
rather depends on what happens during the next few days. I've 
had a slight difference of opinion with some of the local nabobs 
— excellent people in their way. You remember the boat — ?" 

After this, the letter went more easily. And as Timothy had 
found in writing to Tyro, the fact that his correspondent might 
be unsympathetic or even hostile to the letter's contents, 
hampered him much less than it would once have done. They 
must take it from him, they must take it from him. All the same 
it was a relief, though a relief of which he was secretly ashamed, 



426 THE BOAT 

to come to the bonne bouche at the end. How should he word 
it? Timothy was tired of saying the same thing in different ways ; 
after all, it was most unlikely that the two recipients would ever 
compare notes. Making a resolution, as often before, to 
preserve the stamp, he tore open Tyro's envelope and started 
copying. 'Tor some reason I felt there was a hurry, and I took 
the liberty of appointing you my executor. . . . Also I've 
divided my estate, such as it is, between you and two other 
friends — Tyro MacAdam is one . . . and anyhow I have too little 
left to damage a principle!" 



THE BOAT 427 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

"It's still raining," said the Rector, going to the window of the 
dining-room, where luncheon for three was laid. ''It looks like 
being a wet day for the boating-party, Volumnia." 

His wife came and joined him at the window. A tumid 
greyness, flecked with white, was scudding across the sky. 

' 'Perhaps Casson will call the whole thing off," the Rector 
continued. "He won't want to risk a damp squib." 

"We must pray for that." Mrs. Purbright spoke with great 
intensity and her long interlaced fingers writhed in each other's 
clasp. Her face and her attitude were as strained as if she had 
been out in the rough weather, not watching it from behind 
glass. 

"You mustn't take the thing too seriously, my dear," said 
the Rector, taking his wife's arm and leading her away from the 
window. "It's one of those little upsets that brew up suddenly 
like this squall, but they're forgotten as soon as they're over." 
"I wish I could think so," said Mrs. Purbright. 
"Have you tried to get through to him again?" asked the 
Rector. 

"Yes, half an hour ago. He was out, the maid said." 
"You can say what you like in defence of the fellow," Mr. 
Purbright exploded, with the relief of someone who has kept 
his feelings too long under control, "but I call it exceedingly 
ill-mannered and ungrateful, after all you've done for him, 
fighting his battles, and so on." 
Mrs. Purbright shook her head. 

"Oh no, Edward, I don't feel that at all. It's our fault at least 
as much as his. He's been driven into a corner. And I was so 
stupid to bother him about Edgell's stories, when I knew how 
upset he was. I have reproached myself a thousand times. It was 
the tone of his voice that took me by surprise." 
The Rector shrugged his shoulders. 

"It doesn't seem to me a great deal to have asked him," he 
said. "It's all in the course of his work. Where is Edgell, by the 



428 THE BOAT 

way?" 

"He*« lunching in Swirrelsford." 

**Oh." The Rector's face stiffened slightly and he looked away 
from his wife. "Does he still talk of attending this silly function 
at the bridge?" 

**I believe so," said Mrs. Purbright, vaguely. "Oh yes, 
Edward, I think he does. You see, he got on quite well with Mr. 
Casson. They were becoming friends. I was so sorry . . . 
Naturally, he feels a kind of loyalty." 

"I wish he wouldn't." The Rector's face darkened. "It will 
look so peculiar. You and I know that he's an — an acquaintance 
of Casson's, but others may easily misunderstand. It was a mis- 
fortune that his leave happened at this particular time, when 
there are no young people in the village of our own sort. You 
were always charitable about the newcomers, Volumnia, but I 
never liked the idea of them. I'm afraid I was right." 

Mrs. Purbright's face grew troubled. She dropped into a chair 
and stared at the empty grate. 

"Oh, Edward," she said. "Life is so complex. Think of all the 
strands of beauty in it. Does one want to tear them out, even if 
one could? Edgell is such a dear boy, I should not want to clip 
his wings." 

"He's got his wings all right," said the Rector, in surprise. 
"Oh, I see what you mean," he added. "Well, I'm afraid I don't 
agree with you, Volumnia. Laxity is a prevailing fault of our 
age, and we don't want to see Edgell drawn into it." 

"Yet even if what . . . what you heard was true," said Mrs. 
Purbright, "I could not regard it as an unmixed misfortune. 
We must remember the advice given to Peter, not to call any- 
one common or unclean. And you wouldn't in other circum- 
stances, Edward, you know you wouldn't. What is our function 
in this village? Surely not to pass by on the other side? I wish 
you could feel, as I do, that beauty and goodness can no more 
be separated from other qualities than the flame can be 
separated from the coal it springs from." She looked at her 
husband with an earnest frown. 

"That's all right," he conceded, grudgingly, "quite all right in 
certain circumstances, Volumnia. But not, I think, in these." 
His glance, avoiding hers, rested on the dinner table. "But if 






THE BOAT 429 

Edgell is in Swirrelsford, who is our third?" 

''Colonel Harbord; I asked him," said Mrs. Purbright. 

"Harbord? Good," said the Rector. ''But why didn't you 
tell me? And — " suddenly he took in his wife's appearance 
which, husband-like, he had hitherto taken for granted, and 
words failed him. He saw the pearls, the rings, the bracelets, 
and the brooches, the lavender silk dress with its lilac fringes — 
all the concrete reminders, which she so seldom wore, that the 
money had been Mrs. Purbright's. She wore them so seldom 
that they did not seem to belong to her, yet they made their 
effect; in the dim light she glimmered like a stained-glass 
window. 

"Good gracious!" said the Rector. "Have you put on all that 
for Harbord?" 

With a lifted hand she silenced his inquiry. "I think I hear 
him in the hall." 

After luncheon, when Mrs. Purbright had gone to make the 
coffee, and the two men were together in the drawing-room, 
the Rector said, "I'm afraid my wife is rather upset by this silly 
little demonstration at the bridge — the River Revolution, as 
they term it. Casson is by way of being a friend of hers. You 
know how charitable she is to everyone. I didn't altogether dis- 
like the fellow, either. Of course he made a fool of himself at the 
smoking concert, but Volumnia accepted his excuses and 
persuaded me to. But I'm afraid my first impression was 
correct." 

Colonel Harbord shrugged his shoulders and asked leave to 
light his pipe. 

"I've always been rather sorry for the chap myself," he said. 
"He led off with the wrong foot and his timing has been faulty 
ever since. More than once he was within an ace of getting what 
he wanted — wasn't he. Rector? — we were all ready to meet him 
half way, if he'd only known, but he always bungled it. Of 
course he ought to have gone somewhere else. A fishing river is 
no good to row a boat on. Apart from getting in our way, which 
would have been a nuisance, he'd have got stuck on the bottom 
half the time. I expect he will today, if he goes out." 

Involuntarily they turned their heads to the window. It was 
still blowing hard, but the rain had lessened. 



430 THE BOAT 

''It's that girl he goes about with, more than him, in my 
opinion," the colonel continued. ''She seems to be a regular 
firebrand. Good-looking little baggage, though." He turned to 
Mr. Purbright with the minimum of inquiry in his eye. 

The Rector stirred in his chair. 

"Between ourselves, she's become rather a friend of Edgell's. 
I don't know how much Volumnia knows about it. He hasn't 
brought her here, of course." 

"Good lord, I should hope not," said Colonel Harbord. 
"In my day one didn't — She must be a girl of parts, keeping 
two beaux on one string, as they say. But I don't cotton to her, 
and I rather hope that Casson will tip her in the river." 

The Rector frowned. "I do not wish her any harm," he said, 
"though I do not go as far as my wife, who seems almost to like 
the girl. She doesn't quite realize, dear Volumnia, what an 
awkward position it puts us in, Edgell apparently giving his . . . 
his blessing to this ridiculous outbreak. It's only a boy's freak, 
of course, but I'm glad to have this opportunity of apologizing 
for him." 

Colonel Harbord smiled. "I can assure you, my dear Rector, 
that we shan't hold it against him. It's just the sort of thing you 
and I might have done at his age." The Rector shook his head. 

"Well, I might," Colonel Harbord amended. "Just for the fun 
of the thing, you know. But it's different in Casson 's case. He's 
old and ugly enough to know better. And as for his accom- 
plice! Do you imagine they've made much headway in the 
village? They didn't canvass you, by any chance?" 

"Indeed not," said the Rector. "Casson hasn't shown his 
face here for a month or more. It's hard to tell what progress 
they've made. As politicians know, countrymen are apt to be 
secretive when it's a question of revealing which side 
they're on." 

"They don't open up to you?" said Colonel Harbord. 

"My inquiries have only elicited the vaguest replies," the 
Rector said, "perhaps because I cannot help showing that I 
regard the whole business as a serious piece of folly." 

"So you don't think we'll get murdered in our beds, or 
strung up to lamp-posts with our fishing tackle. 'Hanged from a 
fishing rod' sounds rather good." 



THE BOAT 431 

The Pvcctor shook his head. ''The villagers know which side 
their bread is buttered," he remarked. 'Trom what I hear, 
Casson has been spending money lavishly, very lavishly. But 
I doubt if he really has a long purse, I very much doubt it. 
And country people are not easily impressed by display; no 
Englishman is, for that matter." 

''With the help of the rain, you think the revolution may 
just fizzle out?" 

The Rector paused to light his pipe. ''Before the war, I should 
certainly have said yes. But today there is a new spirit, and a 
regrettable one, not only among the rowdier elements. Love of 
sensation, Harbord, love of sensation turns men into hooligans. 
Casson has the gift of the gab and he talks like a gentleman, even 
if he doesn't act like one." 

"I've only once had the pleasure of speaking to him," said 
Colonel Harbord, "and I don't think he was acting like a gentle- 
man then — more like a man, perhaps. Ah, here's Mrs. Pur- 
bright." He got up and shut the door after Mrs. Purbright, 
who, burdened by her tray, was walking with quick steps and a 
heightened colour. 

She apologized for taking so long over their coffee. "But I 
have to confess," she said, "that I telephoned, and that 
kept me." 

"You telephoned?" repeated the Rector, with a note of anger 
in his voice. "And with the usual result, I suppose?" 

"No, I didn't telephone to Mr. Casson," Mrs. Purbright said. 
"I telephoned to the post-office at Swirrelsbourn." 

"Why?" asked the Rector. 

"To find out the state of the river there." 

Mrs. Purbright was breathing quickly. 

"And they told you—?" 

Mrs. Purbright poured out Colonel Harbord's coffee. "Oh, 
I forgot — you like it black." 

"It doesn't matter a bit." 

"No, no. It'll do for me. I very much prefer it with milk. 
And here is yours, Edward. Please take all the sugar you like, 
Colonel; we have plenty." 

"But you haven't told us about the river," the Rector 
reminded her. 



432 THE BOAT 

'The river? Oh yes. They said it was rising fast." 

**Well, that's good news," said Colonel Harbord. "The 
water-party will be off." 

*'Oh, do you think so?" said Mrs. Purbright. "I wish I could. 
I feel so uneasy about the whole affair. I wish we could do 
something to stop it." 

'The Rector and I are for letting it alone," said Colonel 
Harbord. "You're playing into their hands by taking notice of 
them. Notice is just what they want." 

"You are quite right. Colonel," said Mrs. Purbright. "They 
want notice, and we should give it to them." 

She spoke with all the emphasis she could command, and 
stared hard at the two men, whose faces closed in wariness. 
The Rector cleared his throat. 

"Really, Volumnia, I don't understand you. Opposition from 
us would be the greatest mistake. It would only inflame them 
further, besides making us look ridiculous. The only course is 
to ignore them." 

"You know, I think he's right," said Colonel Harbord. "I'm 
all for a fight myself, and so is he. But I do think, in this case, 
that discretion is the better part of valour. We all know you 
have the courage of a lion, and Casson hasn't, by all accounts. 
If you," he went on, "tackled him and told him not to make an 
ass of himself, you might bring him to his senses, mightn't she, 
Rector? By Jove, I wouldn't like to do something, if Mrs. 
Purbright told me not to. But even if she sent him away with 
his tail between his legs, there are still the others to reckon with, 
all the hoodlums of the place, not to mention his precious 
fellow-agitator, a nasty bit of work if ever there was one. 
They'd just cock snooks at you, Mrs. Purbright, they would, 
really. Far better take no notice." 

Mrs. Purbright listened with bowed head. At last she said, 
"It wasn't that kind of notice I was thinking of." 

There was a moment's silence, then the Rector said, "May we 
know what is in your mind, Volumnia?" 

"Oh Edward, what can I say? How can I advise Colonel 
Harbord and you, who have so much more experience of 
practical affairs than I have? I am astonished at my imper* 
tinence. It was ju-jitsu I was thinking of." 



THE BOAT 433 

*7u-jitsu, Volumnia?" 

''Yes, isn't that a kind of wrestling in which the wrestlers 
don't try to resist each other, on the contrary, each gives way 
to the other, and the victory goes to the one who best knows 
how to yield?" 

Colonel Harbord laughed. ''I believe it is something like that, 
Mrs. Purbright. Each man tries to make the other use his 
strength against himself. But in the end the victory goes to the 
one who twists the other's toes or squeezes his windpipe. ..." 

Mrs. Purbright closed her eyes. ''Surely it need not come to 
that. . . . Supposing you were Mr. Casson. ..." 

"Which of us, Mrs. Purbright?" 

"Well, either of you — it is a greal deal to suppose," she went 
on hurriedly, "but suppose you were in his boat, rowing down 
the river — " 

"You aren't suggesting that Harbord or I should offer to be 
his passenger, Volumnia?" 

"Oh, dear no, just put yourself in his place, with your heart 
full of well . . . bitter feelings and then the bridge comes into 
view, and what do you see?" 

"I should see, I suppose, a number of misguided fellows, 
sweeps, I might almost call them, the most undesirable elements 
we have, waving and cheering and uttering threats against 
Church and State and my good friend Harbord, and a few idle 
women who ought to be looking after their homes, and 
neglected, badly brought up children of a type with which we 
are becoming only too familiar — " 

"Yes, and when you saw them, what would you feel?" 

"Volumnia, you put a strain on my patience, obliging me to 
consider myself in a role, and I must say a personality, extremely 
distasteful to me. But when I saw them — er — egging me on, 
I should no doubt feel confirmed in my folly and do my best to 
encourage them in theirs." 

"Yes," agreed Mrs. Purbright eagerly, "you would. I mean — " 
for a look of disgust had settled on the Rector's face — "in Mr. 
Casson's place you would. But suppose you saw some other 
sort of people on the bridge — " 

"But, my dear, Volumnia, there would be no otlier sort of 
people." 



434 THE BOAT 

*Tet me beg you to use your imagination a little further," 
pleaded Mrs. Purbright. * 'Suppose you saw, leaning over the 
bridge and cheering with the others some quite different sort of 
people — " 

**Do you mean ordinary aliens, or coloured people such as 
Indians or negroes?" 

**No, no," cried Mrs. Purbright. 'Though how nice that 
would be." Lost in a confused vision of turbans and sarongs, 
she almost smiled, and it cost her an effort to dismiss the 
exotic throng. '1 mean," she said unenthusiastically, ''people 
like ourselves." 

"People like ourselvesV^ repeated the Rector. "But what 
would people like ourselves be doing there?" 

"I told you," said Mrs. Purbright, and her excitement 
brought the flush back to her cheeks, "cheering with the others. 
He would recognize them, of course. They would not be his 
partisans, far from it, they would belong to the other camp, 
they would disagree with his principles and what he stood for." 

"The fellow hasn't any principles," interjected the Rector. 

"Perhaps not, but my point is that he would see, among his 
supporters, whom you. Colonel, correctly described as the . . . 
the less fortunate members of the community, people like 
ourselves, not sympathizing with his intentions, indeed deplor- 
ing them, but sympathizing with him as a man, a fellow-creature, 
and in spite of everything, wishing him well." Mrs. Purbright 
paused, like a speaker trying to gauge the feeling of the audience. 
"What would his feelings be, as he draws near to the bridge, 
and sees, among the others, those faces that he had so little 
expected to see, not looking at him angrily or coldly, but with 
encouragement and understanding?" 

The Rector shook his head, as though his wife had ventured 
into a region of speculation too remote for him to follow. But 
Colonel Harbord said, "It would give him a turn, I see that. It 
would make him think again. It might even," he smiled slyly at 
Mrs. Purbright, "spoil the party for him." 

"Exactly!" exclaimed Mrs. Purbright. "It would ... it would 
disarm him. Colonel Harbord, it would spike his guns!" 

Colonel Harbord gave the Rector a sidelong look. "A sort of 
fifth column, eh? It might be a good plan," he said doubtfully. 



THE BOAT 435 

**but who's going to do it? Where'll you find the volunteers?" 

Mrs. Purbright rose to her feet and stood over them. She 
was trembUng, and the dawn of triumph, brightening in her 
face, transfigured it. 

''Edward," she said, ''Colonel Harbord, come with me to the 
bridge!" 

She might have been a priestess with a taper in her hand, 
raised to the sacred vessel. 

The silence was broken by the Rector. 

"Volumnia," he said, "have you gone mad?" 

But her mood was still too exalted to be cast down either by 
his words or the tone in which he uttered them. "No, I've not!" 
she cried, like a child denying a groundless accusation from 
another child, and as if a simple assertion would prove her 
sanity. "I'm not mad at all," she went on, still in the same 
childish way. "You agree with me, don't you, Colonel Harbord, 
that it's the only way to ... to save the situation?" 

Colonel Harbord 's bright blue eyes looked at her uncer- 
tainly and then sought the Rector's. "I must take my orders 
from my commanding officer," he said. 

The triumph faded from Mrs. Purbright's face; the taper was 
extinguished by the daylight. She swayed slightly and said, "Oh, 
please, please, it's such a small thing to do. What is it, what does 
it amount to ? Only a few steps to the bridge, only a few minutes 
on the bridge ! Five at the most. What can you lose by it ? " 

Colonel Harbord's face was a mask; like a soldier on parade, 
when a general passes by, he betrayed nothing of what he felt. 
But the Rector's expression was startling, so little was there in it 
of his usual look, so utterly was it dominated by the feeling of 
the moment. Trying to keep his voice under control, he said, 
"You don't understand these things, Volumnia. You look at 
them too . . . too emotionally. What you propose is totally 
unpractical. It would only make matters worse, much worse 
than they are, and might even earn me a rebuke from my Bishop. 
The only practical thing to do is to do nothing, as Harbord and I 
agreed, a moment ago." 

Mrs. Purbright threw her head back and drew a long breath. 

"Edward . . . Edward, I implore you. I had not meant to 
mention it, because we have often discussed it and agreed that 



436 THE BOAT 

it should be treated with suspicion. It isn't second sight, of 
course, but for days I've had a most uneasy feeling about this 
. . . this boating expedition — it hurts me when I think of it, it 
hurts me!" She laid her hand on her breast, whence it fell to 
her side in a multi-coloured flash of jewels. ''Don't think of 
them — put them out of your mind altogether, and do it for my 
sake." 

The Rector turned away. "It's no good, Volumnia, I can't. 
Do be reasonable," he went on, more gently, ''how could a 
man in my position, or Colonel Harbord's, lend himself to this 
silly mummery? It isn't real, it's playing at life. As far as it has 
any meaning at all, we should be thought to be encouraging 
them, giving our support to the enemies of society . . . and . . . 
and of religion. And it would look as if we were frightened. 
Please, Volumnia, believe that in this case a man with practical 
experience knows best. I'm sorry not to ... to oblige you, but 
I cannot go against my conscience." 

Mrs. Purbright stood, a figure of desolation, looking at 
neither of them. 

"Mrs. Purbright," said Colonel Harbord, "I would do any- 
thing for you, but I feel in this instance I must abide by what 
the Rector says. And I'm sure your fears are groundless. Even 
a general in the field has to reckon with the weather. They won't 
turn out today." Rising to his feet he gave her his most re- 
assuring smile, but it was nothing to the smile the sun gave 
them, blazing through the window, gilding Mrs. Purbright' s 
spoils with broken rings of brightness. Against the dark re- 
treating clouds the trees looked as if they had been washed in 
gold; and the freshness of the air stole into the room. "I must 
get home between the showers," said the Colonel, holding 
out his hand. "Mark my words, there'll be another downpour 
in a minute." And thanking them for their hospitality he took 
his leave, memorizing as much as he could of their conversa- 
tion, to tell his wife. 

Mrs. Purbright did not give up easily. All the afternoon she 
went to and fro in Upton, trying to prevail on the more sub- 
stantial residents to go with her to the bridge. Naturally, she 
did not call on Colonel Harbord. Each of them received her 



THE BOAT 437 

kindly but the answer never varied. To attend the meeting 
would be taken as a sign of weakness; the best way to deal with 
the insurgents was to ignore them. Tired and dejected she 
returned to tea, hoping to find Edgell, but he had not come 
back. Tea was a miserable meal, neither she nor her husband 
speaking of what was uppermost in their minds. She did not tell 
him of her intention to go to the bridge herself; she could not 
face another altercation with him. Nor, at heart, did she feel it 
was any use her going. Alone, she would carry no weight; 
Timothy's party would welcome her, no doubt, but they would 
attribute her presence to her friendship with him, and to her 
well-known eccentricity; it would be a solitary gesture, meaning 
nothing, and it would anger her husband. Still, from loyalty 
to Timothy, and her sense of what was fit, she must make it. 
The Rector retired into his study, pointedly refraining from 
asking her how she meant to spend the rest of the afternoon. 

Mrs. Purbright went to prepare herself for the party, but 
never had she done so with a poorer heart. 

On her way to the rendezvous she saw in the distance the 
Swirrelsford bus stopping at the corner of the Green, opposite 
to Timothy's house. She did not notice it particularly. Only two 
passengers got out. One walked away from her in the direction 
of the village, the other came towards her, walking slowly and 
stiffly like an old man. She had to look again before she 
gathered who it was. 

''Edgell!" she cried, hastening towards him. "My dear boy!" 

He looked up in surprise, almost with a start, but did not 
quicken his step. 

"Hullo, Mother!" he greeted her. "Where are you otf to?" 

"To the bridge!" she said, trying to make it sound the 
happiest destination. "And you're coming with me, aren't 
you?" 

"To the bridge?" echoed Edgell, stopping still and looking 
down at her. How pale he is, she thought. "Did I hear you 
right?" 

"Yes," said Mrs. Purbright. "I thought I would, and you 
told me you were going." 

"I was," said Edgell, "but to tell you the truth I feel a bit off 
colour, and I'm going home to have a lie-down." 



438 THE BOAT 

Mrs. Purbright tried to conceal her concern. 

"Oh, my poor boy. I thought you looked a little tired." He 
looked worse than that, but she did not want to scare him and 
he hated to be fussed over. She tried to think against the claims 
competing in her mind. ''Shall I come back with you and get 
you a hot water-bottle?" 

"Well, it would be nice," said Edgell. "I do feel a bit rotten." 
He had never said as much as that before, and Mrs. Purbright 
was alarmed. 

"Would you like to take my arm?" 

He smiled down at her from his commanding height. "No, 
I can totter along. By the way," he said, as they retraced their 
steps, "does Dad know that you were going to Casson's show?" 

His mother had forgotten about Timothy. Now the thought 
of breaking her unspoken pledge to him made her tremble. 

"As soon as I've made you comfortable I could go back," she 
said. "I should only be away for a few minutes. It's just . . . just 
to put in an appearance." 

"I shouldn't bother to go. Mother." 

"My darling, I think I must," said Mrs. Purbright. "I don't 
want to fail him." 

"He's all right, you know, but he's a bit mad," said Edgell. 

"Oh no, Edgell, what makes you think so?" 

"Well, from what I hear." 

Mrs. Purbright pondered. She was used to hearing people say 
that Timothy was mad : Edgell was not the first. But it hurt her, 
coming from him. 

"I thought you liked him." 

"I did for a bit, and I didn't mind him taking a dim view of 
my literary efforts, but he needn't have put it quite so crudely. 
Spared the old feelings, you know. But perhaps he thinks I don't 
have any, being only a brutal and licentious airman." 

In spite of Mrs. Purbright's resolve never to pry into her son's 
affairs, her curiosity got the better of her. Where have you been 
all the day, Edgell my son? 

"Oh, my darling," she said, "what makes you think he did?" 

"Somebody must have told me, I suppose. But it's your fault 
really, you naughty woman. It was you who forced my effusions 
on the wretched man, though I begged you not to. They're not 



THE BOAT 439 

his class, of course. Though from what I hear he's not finding 
much of a market for his own stuff just at present." 

''I don't know, it's so long since I saw him. I'm sure he didn't 
mean to be unkind. But I think perhaps it was unkind of who* 
ever told you. Things sound so different out of their context." 

*'Oh no, I'd much rather hear the truth. I'm that sort of chap. 
To'morrow I shall diligently collect all the typescripts and make 
a terrific bonfire." 

Mrs. Purbright didn't quite believe him but she was deeply 
grieved at having been the cause of mortifying him. The un- 
witting cause: but someone had deliberately made mischief, 
and a nerve of resentment long buried in Mrs. Purbright's mind 
began to throb. 

**You aren't angry with me, my darling, are you?" she said, 
speaking as lightly as she could. '*I couldn't bear it if you were." 

*'Oh, no. Mother." A stab of pain went through him, making 
him grimace. ''You have the vice of meaning well." 

The Rector was out, so a brief note in the hall informed them, 
and would not be in till supper-time. Mrs. Purbright boiled the 
kettle, made tea and filled the hot water-bottle. By the time she 
brought them up, Edgell was already in bed. She wanted to 
comfort him as if he had been a little boy; but the grown- 
upness of his head on the pillow, and the half unwilling respect 
which his manhood evoked in her, checked the endearments 
on her lips. 

"You'll have to rest more," she said, trying to keep fondness 
and anxiety out of her voice. ''No more visits to Swirrelsford." 

She saw she had made a mistake, for his eyes darkened with 
masculine secretiveness. 

"It's all going according to plan. The doctor told me I 
should have these attacks. . . . Now, you buzz off, or you'll 
miss the bridge-party." 

"I dare say I have missed it. Sure you wouldn't like me to 
stay?" 

"Good lord, no. I shall be quite all right as soon as I've made 
myself sick. Only I can't do tliat as long as you're here." 

"I wish you wouldn't, Edgell dear. I'm sure it can't be good 
for you. I distrust these drastic remedies." 

Weakness brought a flash of querulousness into his voice as 



440 THE BOAT 

he said, "Oh, don't bother me, Fm always better after Fve been 
sick. There's nothing like it for taking the old pain away." 

Distraught, almost agonized, wondering where her duty lay, 
she looked round the room helplessly, trying to see something 
that might give her an excuse to linger. Edge 11 closed his eyes. 

''Enjoy the bridge-party," he said, ''and come back soon. 
And if you see Casson, tell him I'm going to write a short story 
about him." 



THE BOAT 441 



CHAPTER XXIX 

Walking and running, dipping and rearing, Mrs. Purbright 
hastened down the village street. Her garden-party appearance 
was in odd contrast v/ith her gait; the rustling silks, the gleaming 
jewels belonged to another scene and another kind of progress. 
And to another state of mind. She scarcely recognized herself, 
so much had happened that was at variance with everything she 
hoped for. She did not acknowledge the raised hats and the 
bows, the smiles that met and followed her. She was dismayed 
by the tide of anger that was rising in her, a dry, hot feeling 
that she had not known for years. Her mind was full of darkness 
and confused sounds. Muttering aloud, to the amusement of 
the passers-by, she argued for and against herself. ''Nonsense, 
nonsense," she repeated to the summer evening, splashing 
through the puddles which the rain had left; ''you've got it all 
wrong." Suddenly she pulled up short: a stream, almost a river, 
was running across the road in front of her. 

On both sides of the obstacle were people who wanted to 
get across; the air rang with laughter and shouts. Mrs. Pur- 
bright saw that some of them were wearing in their buttonholes, 
a kind of crescent, which, on examination, proved to be the 
paper silhouette of a boat. Now she noticed the feeling of 
excitement around her, excitement which increased when some 
of the boys and men took off their shoes and socks, turned up 
their trousers to the knee, and waded through the flood. A 
stalwart labourer offered to carry Mrs. Purbright across, but she 
declined. Just at that moment a car came up, and the driver 
made signals to her. She asked him to drop her at the bridge and 
he did so. 

On the crown of the bridge, solitary as Horatius, stood 
Nelson. He was pulling something off the parapet; paper it 
seemed to be, for it came away from the stone in crumbling 
strips. At sight of Mrs. Purbright he straightened himself and 
saluted. 

"Why, Mrs. Purbright," he said, "you're too late." 



442 THE BOAT 

"Too late, am I too late, Nelson? Oh dear." 

"You missed a fine show. Madam. Mr. Casson, he rowed a 
treat." 

"Oh, but Nelson, I feel so anxious." 

"Anxious, Mrs. Purbright, Madam? You haven't any call to 
feel anxious. I was here, so no trouble could take place. The 
crowd was quite orderly except for one or two hot'heads." 

"Oh, I didn't mean that," said Mrs. Purbright, moving 
towards the parapet from off which, as she now saw. Nelson had 
been peeling the illegible and sodden posters that Timothy's 
supporters had affixed. "No, this is what worries me." 

She peered down at the water, only a few feet below her. At 
the bridge the current was always strong; to-day the water had 
gathered itself into a smooth brown tongue, luminous at the 
edges, which flowed with so much force that where it rebounded 
from the pillars of the bridge it left a hollow. The gardens of the 
houses bordering the river were standing in water almost to the 
top of the black palings that divided them; crazily scraping 
against one of these fences was a hen-house ; wooden gear of all 
sorts was floating slowly up and down, or twirling in miniature 
whirlpools. 

The constable's face glowed. 

"You don't see this every day, do you. Madam?" 

Mrs. Purbright turned unhappy eyes to the other side of 
the bridge where the river, broadening out as it swept away 
from the village, showed a sliding, mud-coloured surface, 
flecked with gouts of yellow froth. 

"I feel anxious for Mr. Casson," she said. 

"Mr. Casson, Madam? You needn't worry about him. Why, 
he gave such a display of oarsmanship as Upton hasn't seen in 
all its history." 

"I'm glad you enjoyed it. Nelson." 

"Enjoyed it, Mrs. Purbright, why it was an object lesson. I 
used to belong to a rowing club in Swirreslford so I know some- 
thing about it. To begin with, you m^ustn't row with the arms, 
that's quite wrong." 

"Was he alone in the boat. Nelson?" 

But Nelson was too much absorbed in what he was saying to 
notice her interruption. 



THE BOAT 443 

"And it isn't the biceps either that matter, Madam. Them 
biceps is no use to you at all." 

"Did the crowd . . . did they cheer him, were they 
sympathetic?" 

"It's your legs that matter, Mrs. Purbright," Nelson went on, 
his eyes shining with enthusiasm. "You wouldn't think so, 
would you, being a lady, but it's your legs that give you the 
power. Mr. Casson, he used his legs a treat." 

Mrs. Pur bright was hardly paying more attention to him than 
he to her. 

"It's just occurred to me. Nelson ..." she began. 

"Your legs and your back, Mrs. Purbright, Madam. It's 
there the drive comes from. And those hands, Madam, don't 
let those hands hug those thighs! Get them away!" 

"If I went down Lover's Lane should I be in time to stop 
him, do you think?" 

Nelson was saying: 

"And then there's feathering. Just look at my wrists, Mrs. 
Purbright, and follow my movements if you can." He stretched 
his arms out, clenched his fists, bared his wrists, and moved his 
hands up and down with a sharp jerk. "Try it, Madam, try it, 
you'd soon learn." 

Half hypnotized by his vehemence Mrs. Purbright found 
herself imitating Nelson's gestures. 

"That's it, and now a long swing from the buttocks. Excuse 
me, Madam." The spring of his eloquence broken. Nelson 
turned scarlet. 

"I was thinking. Nelson," panted Mrs. Purbright, "that if I 
went down Lover's Lane — you know it cuts off that big loop of 
the river — I might still be in time to warn him and make him 
turn back." 

"Turn back? Oh no, Mrs. Purbright, that would be a pity. 
The people wouldn't be here to watch him come back. He said 
in an hour's time, and the chaps are laying bets on it." Nelson's 
voice was pathetic and reproachful. "This is the best day 
Upton's had since I've been here," he declared, "and Mr. 
Casson's the hero of the hour, the hero of the hour. He's come 
into his own, at last, Mrs. Purbright, where you always wanted 
him to be. I wasn't in favour of it at all to start with," he 



444 THE BOAT 

admitted. "I thought he was just another of these so-called 
Communists. But he isn't, he's a first-rate oarsman, that's what 
he is, and Upton's going to be a paradise for oarsmen, like he 
stated, Madam, when he made his speech from the old water- 
steps down there. 'Tisn't what a man says, 'tis what he states 
that matters, and we shall have boats going up and down this 
river like they do in the grand canals of Venice." 

The policeman's face lit up at the vision. 

"Thank you, thank you, Nelson," breathed Mrs. Purbright. 
"I am glad and grateful that you appreciate Mr. Casson so 
much." 

Leaving Nelson in possession she hurried away from the 
bridge, fumbling in her bag as she went. She could not find what 
she sought, and her back grew more bowed and her face more 
anxious. 

Lovers' Lane, the short cut to the river, was only a few 
minutes' walk. Once it had been a public footpath; but when 
Sir Watson Stafford bought the property the right of way had 
fallen into disuse and he had, with very little protest from any- 
one, closed the path and sealed the entrance, which had been 
through a hole in the wall, with a door which he kept locked. 
But to several of his friends he gave duplicate keys so that they 
might enjoy the pleasure of the place: and Mrs. Purbright was 
one. 

Just as she was abandoning in despair the search for the key 
she looked up and saw that she had reached the door, and it was 
open. As she passed through, the exultation which Nelson had 
managed to communicate to her lost its hold, the dreadful 
strength of the river came back like a physical sensation, 
weakening her limbs and filling her with foreboding. 

When Vera Cross left Edgell at the bus she was, for once, in an 
undecided state of mind. She had promised Timothy to join 
him at the Old Rectory for tea, after which they were to em- 
bark for the bridge. It was after half past five, too late for her to 
have tea with him but not too late to join him in the boat. At 
lunch in Swirrelsford she and Edgell had watched the rain and 
decided that Timothy would never make the attempt. The 
demonstration would have to be postponed. So she put it out 



THE BOAT 445 

of her mind, and thought of other, pleasanter things, for which 
Edgell gave her full opportunity, until in the late afternoon the 
sun burst through and reminded her that the expedition might 
take place, after all. As soon as she could draw Edgell's atten^ 
tion to mundane matters she put the question to him. He, not 
unnaturally, begged her to give the whole thing up, and stay 
and dine with him in Swirrelsford ; and for a time she seemed to 
fall in with this. But she had already made up her mind to 
return, and the sight of her lover's disappointment only con- 
firmed her resolve. Lovemaking was only incidental to her 
mission in Upton, it was not one of the results she had to show. 
In the end it was not so difficult to persuade Edgell to come 
back; he was already beginning to feel the strain of the day's 
delight, and wondering, though he would rather have died than 
confess this to Vera, whether he would be able to hold out till 
he got home. 

But when she saw the water-splash at Upton, which had not 
been there on her outward journey, and through the windows 
of the bus caught sight of the river in places where it had never 
been visible before, her courage failed her. She did not mind 
disappointing Timothy, for experience had shown her that her 
relationships with men, or with some men, throve on the 
disappointments she handed out to them. They came back for 
more; and Timothy was essentially one of those who did. But 
for a moment, before his need for her renewed itself, he could 
be sulky and annoyed; and he might refuse to go unless she 
went with him. It would be a mistake in tactics for this to 
happen. Together they had worked the village up to a high pitch 
of expectation and excitement which, in all probability, could 
not be repeated at a later date, especially if the postponement 
was due to the organizers showing the white feather. Moreover, 
without vanity she knew that she had made herself a mascot, 
if not exactly a Lady Godiva, to a great many people in the 
village, and the demonstration would lose a good deal of its 
publicity value if she failed to take part in it. She was news, she 
felt, and Timothy was not. Headquarters would be dissatisfied 
with her if she cried off. On the other hand they would be much 
more disgusted if the demonstration, with whose progress she 
had kept them in touch, fizzled out altogether. And weighing 



446 THE BOAT 

in her mind the alternatives of warning Timothy of her de^ 
fection, and not warning him, she reahzed that the latter was the 
better bet. With his obstinate regard for the sanctity of engage- 
ments and even of arrangements, he would certainly keep the 
rendezvous at the bridge, if he could, even supposing she did 
not turn up. He would assume she had been kept. 

For another reason the expedition had become, personally, 
distasteful to her. As far as in her lay, she had fallen in love with 
Edgell Purbright ; and her continued relationship with Timothy, 
though it was good, even necessary for business, was becoming 
increasingly irksome to her. She might pay the forfeit she had 
promised him, or she might not; but whichever she did, she was 
through with him. Whereas with Edgell — 

But curiosity was strong in her; she must know what was 
going to happen. It would not do for her to stand on the bridge 
with the other spectators, and wait to see if Timothy would 
come ; that would be trying him too far, and besides, she would 
lose face with her public, who expected to see her in the boat. 
She must find some point of vantage where she could see and 
not be seen. It was then that she remembered Lovers' Lane. 
She and Edgell had been there several times and he had en- 
trusted her with the key which, he told her, he had borrowed 
from his mother. She had the key in her bag. Bare-legged and 
sandalled, she quietly waded through the water-splash. It might 
be a little awkward if any of the villagers spotted her before she 
reached the door, but she could easily think up some excuse, 
urgent business of Frances's or a late change of plan. As a 
matter of fact fortune favoured her ; the coast was clear, and so 
exultant was she at her success that she forgot to lock the door 
behind her. Once inside, the lane enveloped her in its secrecy. 

It ran between hedges until the trees began. Vera lost herself 
in reflections and speculations. How well everything had turned 
out for her! Magda's death had been most opportune; her 
presence would have been a serious embarrassment. She was of 
some value to the Party because of her social connections: 
**Mrs. Vivian, whose left wing opinions are well-known." 
But she was a play-girl and not taken seriously even in Curzon 
Street, which in its turn was not taken seriously by those of 
greater weight. In outline, she knew about Vera's Upton 



i 



THE BOAT 447 

assignment, but in spite of her conversion to Communism her 
outlook was still that of a bourgeoise and an amoureuse who 
put love before politics. Had she come, she would never have let 
Vera have her way with Timothy ; she was too feminine not to 
have warned him, too much a woman of the beau monde not 
to have made him feel that she, Vera, was not. The whole 
operation would have developed into a dog-fight between them, 
and the demonstration would never have come off. Nor would 
she have been as blind as Timothy seemed to be to Vera's 
relationship with EdgelL 

At the thought of Edgell her steps came slower, for the wood 
she was now entering — it was little more than a coppice — was 
redolent of him. He excited her more than any man had for 
years; far, far more than Timothy with his anxious expression 
and his spaniel's eyes. She must not let herself fall too deeply 
in love, for there was work still to be done in Upton, and 
Edgell, the Rector's son, would make a better stalking-horse 
than Timothy, even if he was more difficult to handle. The 
gentry might ignore Timothy; they could not ignore Edgell. 
Suppose she married him for a time. . . . 

She heard a sound, a continuous low murmur which had the 
force of a roar though not its volume. She looked up and saw 
at the end of the glade where only the sky used to be, the river. 

The novelty excited her and she hurried forward. Yes, there 
it was, almost level with the bank, instead of several feet below 
it, sliding by her at what seemed a tremendous pace. Ordinarily 
Vera was not interested in Nature ; it said nothing to her. If she 
liked it at all, she liked to be unnatural: and the Swirrel today 
wore a most unnatural, indeed a revolutionary air. Something 
within her responded to its ruthlessness, its threat to enter 
houses and sweep down bridges, to flatten and destroy the old 
order — the old disorder — on its banks. She liked its lack of 
hesitancy, its wholesale methods and its singleness of purpose, 
as though all the whims of the water had been collected into one 
irresistible will, in which there was no waste of effort, every 
drop, indistinguishable from the others, lending its impulse to 
the whole. 

Heavy with foliage, the trees overhung the river. Timothy 
would have his back to her at first; it was when he had passed by 



448 THE BOAT 

that he might see her ; and this spot against the tree-trunk where 
she and Edgell had often sat, exactly fulfilled the strategic 
requirements. Edgell had discovered it. Edgell. . . . 

It came on her so suddenly, it was over so quickly, that Vera 
wondered if it really had happened. She found herself gazing 
into the eyes of two children who were sitting in the stern seat of 
the boat, leaning away from each other, their fingers trailing in 
the water. Afterwards she remembered they were little boys. Of 
Timothy all she noticed was that one of his shirt-sleeves had 
come down. But in the bows of the boat there had been a kind 
of figure-head, a sight so strange that she could hardly take 
it in. Could it have been a dog? Yes, of course, it was Felix. 
The sculls left spreading puddles in the water, which endured 
for a moment and then were dissolved in the brown flood. 
Vera leaned back against the tree-trunk. So it was accom.plished, 
the task she had set herself and worked at, on and off, for nearly 
eighteen months. What a lot of labour she had put into it, and 
how distasteful much of it had been. She knew she ought to feel 
no emotion whatever; it was only a routine employment, one 
of a series of assignments which should mean no more to her 
than numbers in an addition sum; yet she could not repress a 
sense of satisfaction. How far the demonstration had succeeded 
she could not tell; but it was a beginning — a step in the right 
direction. The River Revolution had been launched and nothing 
in Upton would be quite the same again. Even if there were no 
further outbreaks — and she had reason to think there would be 
— the labourers would be less willing to touch their caps and the 
bosses would not get out their fishing-tackle with the same 
confidence as before. The two nations would be conscious of 
their apartness, their irreconcilability ; and the rift would widen 
in preparation for the final struggle. 

Her musings took on a more prophetic cast, and her face a 
sternness that Timothy had never seen there. But presently it 
softened again and a puzzled frown appeared between her 
brows. How was she to fit Edgell into the picture, for do what 
she would, she could not keep him out? And as the sweetness of 
the thought of him stole over her, she remembered Timothy 
with a dislike that bordered upon hatred. The price she was 
pledged to pay — the penance she must do this very night — 



THE BOAT 449 

Timothy's reward ! In any case it would have been as ridiculous 
and meaningless as a forfeit in a child's game; but now the 
thought of it revolted her in a way she had not believed 
possible. Of course she would get out of it ; but what a rumpus 
he would make! 

She heard a sound, but there were many sounds, scarcely 
distinguishable above the toneless roar of the river. She heard it 
again — it was regular now — and knew that it was footsteps. 
Peering round the tree she saw a figure coming towards her, 
tripping and prancing down the glade. Her eyes dazzled by the 
light on the river, she could not tell at once who the apparition 
was, that looked so tall in the twilight of the trees. The appari- 
tion was muttering to itself — herself — and Vera recognized Mrs. 
Purbright in all her finery. 

But Mrs. Purbright did not see her. She went straight to the 
river's brink and looked anxiously up and down, still muttering. 

Vera, rigid against the tree-trunk made no sound. Mrs. 
Purbright turned away from the river and looked back down 
the glade, with half-closed, unseeing eyes. "She's going now," 
was Vera's whispered thought and in that moment of relief she 
realized how absurd Mrs. Purbright looked, and nearly laughed. 

She suppressed the laugh, but at the cost of a movement 
somewhere, and Mrs. Purbright heard it. She recoiled as 
though she had seen a snake. A dozen expressions crossed her 
face before she exclaimed, her mind harking back to a long-ago 
occasion, **Oh, Miss Angell, I am so glad to see you. I'm feeling 
so uneasy about Mr. Casson." 

Vera rose from the tree-trunk and flicked some wet leaves 
from her skirt. On her feet, and nearly as tall as Mrs. Purbright, 
she felt better able to cope with the situation. 

*'Can I help you?" she asked civilly. 

**Oh, Miss Angell, I wish you could. I don't know why I 
should appeal to you, but who else is there?" Mrs. Purbright 
was thinking aloud. "Probably you know, he's gone out in his 
boat. It was brave of him, I think, but such a pity. You may not 
agree with me." 

"It wasn't the day I should have chosen," said Vera, truth- 
fully. 

"No, indeed, that's just it, not a good day for the river. I 



450 THE BOAT 

tried to stop him before he started, and again at the bridge. But 
I was too late. Things went against me. Edgell . . . Edgell. ..." 

Vera said nothing, but looked at Mrs. Purbright with a 
pensive, sad regard. 

"He's not well, poor boy, and I was so torn . . . but decided 
to come here in case, you know, I should be in time to head him 
off and persuade him to go back. Mr. Casson, I mean. You 
haven't seen him, have you?" Vera said nothing, and Mrs. 
Purbright hurried on, partly because her feelings were running 
away with her, partly because, dimly remembering her inter^ 
view with Nelson, she felt she must not let the conversation get 
into other hands. And the sense of gratitude that the sight of 
beauty never failed to kindle in her, warmed her thoughts 
towards this Miss Angell, who so eminently possessed it. 

''It's the waterfall that's worrying me, it's only a little way 
below us, you know, and it might be dangerous when the river 
is so swollen. Please, Miss Angell, you are younger than I am 
and your eyes are better, I am sure. Would you go to that little 
jutting'Out place there, if you think you can safely, and call out 
to him if he comes by?" 

Partly in automatic reaction to the vehemence of Mrs. Pur- 
bright's words, but more in a spirit of mischief. Vera complied. 
She had a good head, and did not mind perching on the grassy 
peninsula. Turning her beautiful back to Mrs. Purbright, she 
shaded her eyes and gazed up the river. 

''How good of you," said Mrs. Purbright. "I should feel 
so terribly guilty, if he had an accident. He has been rather 
unlucky here. Miss Angell. ..." 

"Cross is my name, as a matter of fact," said Vera pleasantly, 
still scanning the river. 

"Cross, of course, how stupid of me. I don't think he ever 
quite understood how to take us, you know, and this boat has 
been such a barrier. . . . There's no sign of him, I suppose?" 

Vera looked again. "Not yet," she said. 

"There's still a chance. The path we came by is a tremen- 
dously short-cut. It's two miles further by the river. If we stop 
him he can go quietly back and . . . and take up his ordinary life, 
writing and so on. This expedition will have cleared the air, 
perhaps. People speak so sympathetically of him, and would 



i 



THE BOAT 451 

like him if they knew him. He has been such a good friend to 
me. I can't bear to think that somehow. ..." Mrs. Purbright 
paused, suddenly realizing the weight and density of all the 
imponderables she had battled against in her championship 
of Timothy. She came closer to Vera and tried to look over her 
shoulder, then drew back. 

''Better that he shouldn't see me," she said, ''now that you're 
here. Much better. He might resent my interference, I might do 
more harm than good. I have given him reason to dislike me." 
Mrs. Purbright hesitated, and with an impulse of generosity 
that she was only too glad to obey, bundled into the background 
of her mind all that she knew, or had been told, or had surmised 
about Miss Cross. 

"In this moment of our common anxiety — for I am sure you 
must feel even more anxious about him than I do — I will tell 
you something that I could tell to no one else. I too have loved 
him — yes as much as I have loved my own son, perhaps more, 
or why should I be here? Is that a link between us? Miss Angell, 
I think it must be. I cannot say we share him — that would be 
both presumptuous and untrue, but we share our feeling for 
him." Addressing Vera's back, unable to see her eyes which 
were still bent on the river, she broke off and said, "I'm a little 
tired, I shall sit down now. Tell me if you see him coming." 

Vera turned round and said, "But Mrs. Purbright, I have seen 
him." 

"You have seen him?" gasped Mrs. Purbright. 

"Yes, he passed by about ten minutes ago." 

"And you never told me?" 

"But Mrs. Purbright," said Vera, opening wide her innocent 
eyes, "you never gave me the chance!" 

Mrs. Purbright stared at her with an expression of amaze- 
ment and incredulity. She did not sit down but shuffled to and 
fro on the edge of the isthmus that separated her from Vera. 

"It was a cruel trick to play on me," she said. "I believe you 
are a wicked woman, Miss Angell." 

With a slight stiffening of manner Vera said, "The name is 
still Cross." 

Mrs. Purbright made no comment, but as though speaking to 
herself she said, "I wonder how you got in here." 

p* 



452 THE BOAT 

*The same way as you did, I imagine," said Vera, bored but 
polite. 

"I found the door open: it was careless of somebody." 

**Very careless." 

**I must warn Sir Watson." 

"I think you should." 

"The door is marked Private. You didn't realize it was private 
property?" 

Vera shrugged her shoulders. 

**Of course with the door open, anyone can get in," said 
Mrs. Purbright. 

**It wasn't open," said Vera. 

"You must excuse me," said Mrs. Purbright, who was 
trembling with rage, "if I fail to understand. You climbed over, 
I suppose." 

"Does it matter?" 

"Not to a woman of your sort." 

"But I didn't climb over, Mrs. Purbright. I came through the 
ordinary way." 

"You must have forced the lock, then." 

"I didn't have to." 

"But you have no key." 

Vera smiled and the corners of her mouth dropped. 

"You have a skeleton key perhaps?" pursued Mrs. Pur- 
bright. 

Vera shook her head. She couldn't resist the temptation to 
tease Mrs. Purbright a little further. 

"Oh no, I don't need one. You see I have a real key." 

"You have a key?" 

"Yes, the one Edgell gave me." 

Mrs. Purbright stiffened. Her eyes narrowed and she took a 
step forward. 

"Please give me the key, Miss Cross." 

Vera bared her blue eyes and said despairingly, "But I can't, 
Mrs. Purbright. I promised Edgell I wouldn't give it to 
ar\yhody,^^ 

"Give it to me, I say." 

"I can't," cried Vera, frightened now. "Let me pass, Mrs. 
Purbright." 



THE BOAT 



453 



"I won't let you pass. If you don't give me the key, I shall 
take it." 

For a moment the two women struggled in silence on the 
river's brink. Then Vera cried hoarsely, "Be careful, you nearly 
had me over. Let go, you fool. O/i, Mrs, PurbrightV 



454 THE BOAT 



CHAPTER XXX 

On the morning of ''the day," for Timothy*s mind had long 
invested it with inverted commas, he awoke almost as exultant 
as if he had created it. The fact that it had rained all yesterday, 
rained all night, and was raining still, did not in the least depress 
him; if it rained before seven it would be fine before eleven. 
When eleven o'clock came, and brought no break in the down- 
pour, he remembered how in Venice the weather often cleared 
up about three; and an ounce of personal observation was 
worth a pound of proverbs. He had reached a state, unknown to 
him before, when every circumstance, favourable or the reverse, 
combined to prick the sides of his intent. 

How oddly does Fate take us by surprise ! Timothy had fore- 
seen and guarded against everything that could possibly go 
wrong on the voyage between the Old Rectory and the Devil's 
Staircase. Many times, in imagination, he had rowed and 
finished the course. He had also, which was more remarkable 
for him, studied the river itself, the actual terrain, if that was 
the word, wherever it was visible. 

He had discovered, for instance, that there was, embedded in 
the Old Steps, a convenient ring to which he could moor the 
boat when he was addressing the spectators on the bridge. This 
ring, being near the top of the steps, would be available however 
high the water was. For Timothy had not ignored the possibility 
of a flood. Indeed he hoped the river would be rather full, for 
according to all the information he could get, the likeliest risk 
he ran was that of going aground and being left high and dry. 

But one thing he had completely overlooked: the difficulty, 
in a flood, of getting the boat out of the boat-house. 

When he went there, soon after breakfast, he found the path 
to the boathouse already awash, and the water, he could see, was 
a foot deep at the door. He would have to enlist the aid of 
Simpson. Simpson had a pair of gumboots. 

Of all the people whom Timothy had canvassed about his 
attempt on the river Simpson was almost the only one who 



THE BOAT 455 

refused to see its symbolic significance. ''So you're going for a 
row, are you, sir?" he said, and a row for him it remained, in 
spite of Timothy's playful efforts to persuade him that the row, 
spelt the same but spoken differently, might gloriously turn 
into a row. 

"So you won't be able to go for a row, after all," was his 
comment when Timothy told him of the inaccessibility of the 
boat-house. ''You can't go for a row without a boat." 

"Oh, but we must get it out," said Timothy. "And I'm afraid 
I can't do it alone." 

"There you are, you see." 

This was one of Simpson's pet remarks; whatever happened, 
it established the fact of his ominiscience and his interlocutor's 
lack of foresight. However, he came not too grudgingly to 
Timothy's help, and together — he in his gumboots and Timothy 
with his trousers turned up to the knee — they tackled the boat- 
house. 

Inside at any rate they had a roof to keep the rain out. The 
boat was now floating clear of its narrow dock. The pull of 
gravity had taken it to the farther wall, against which it kept up 
a gentle but impatient tapping. Already it had an air of partial 
freedom ; it reminded Timothy of a butterfly that has emerged 
from the chrysalis but is not yet ready to fly. With the recovery 
of its mobility it had lost that static, expectant, rather sinister 
look that used to trouble Timothy; it was waiting to serve, not 
to be served. Or so he thought. 

The doors were made to open outwards but they were im- 
movable from disuse and the extra weight and pressure of the 
water. Timothy pushed at one door, Simpson at the other, but 
being at the side, and close against the hinges, they could not 
get a purchase. It was then that Timothy had the idea, which 
Simpson for a time resisted, of using two stakes as battering 
rams. Standing at opposite sides, their stakes crossing in the 
middle, they pushed and strained with rapt, expressionless 
faces, and eyes slewed sideways, like workmen in a medieval 
woodcut. When at last the doors gave way, the pressure of the 
water flung them outwards and laid them flat against the boat- 
house. How to shut them was a problem that could wait. 
Meanwhile there was a magnificent aperture, larger than the 



456 THE BOAT 

size of the doors when closed would have suggested. Daylight 
poured in, and the fact that the rain poured in also did not 
destroy the dramatic effect. With this influx of Hght Timothy 
felt that the shadows which had haunted the boat-house were 
forever exorcised. 

**You see my plan did work," said Timothy, who, being no 
engineer, was inordinately uplifted by the success of his 
invention. "We should never have done it the way we were 
trying to before." 

"That's what I said," replied Simpson, with a slightly repres- 
sive air. It wasn't what he had said ; this phrase like the other, 
was one he frequently used to snatch verbal victory, and the 
prestige that went with it, from the jaws of defeat. Timothy had 
never convicted Simpson of making a mistake. 

A flood is Nature at its most untidy. The opening framed a 
dismal prospect of things misplaced and acting out of character. 
The narrow conduit between the river and the boat-house had 
disappeared, with all the low-growing vegetation on its banks; 
instead, a mass of muddy water, pitted by raindrops, drifted 
slowly by. Eddies and tiny whirlpools were busy with leaves 
and twigs; bushes looked misshapen, deprived of half their 
height. Beetles and other insects, which had never seen water 
in their lives before, now looked like being drowned. Beyond, 
in the open, ridged and sinewy, the current raced ; and beyond 
it were the rocks, their pinky glow dulled and dirtied by the 
rain. 

"You'll never go out in this?" said Simpson, surveying the 
prospect with lack-lustre eye. "'Tisn't the day for a picnic, Mr. 
Casson." 

"I wasn't going for a picnic," said Timothy. 

"That's what I said: you want to choose your day." 

"I'm afraid the day has chosen me," said Timothy, thinking 
of the posters, the handbills and the concourse on the bridge. 

"It'll be fine at three o'clock, you'll see," he promised the 
departing Simpson. 

"Apr^s le deluge, moi." The thought pleased Timothy; it 
was material for a joke, and when the rain stopped he would 
work on it. "There will be too much of me in the coming by 
and by." A light dissertation on egotism, in his best "Lombard" 



THE BOAT 457 

manner. Meanwhile he decided to manoeuvre the boat into the 
garden and beach it on the lawn. He would have to bale it out 
afterwards, but what matter? He could no longer resist the lure 
of that open door. The moment he touched the craft meaning 
business it seemed to come to life, as it never had in the old days 
when he fingered it like a museum piece. He followed the sculls 
into the boat and sat down on the sliding seat. A throne! 
Tentatively he worked it backwards and forwards. The motion 
was freedom's very stride. What immediately followed was 
something of an anti-climax — -the nosing out of the boat-house, 
the sudden swing against the corner of the building, hampering 
his movements; the branches above scratching his face, the 
branches below clutching at the keel ; the discomfort of wetness 
spoiling the grandeur of water. But at last he fought his way 
clear of the undergrowth, and three good strokes brought the 
bow on to the lawn, high if not dry. The boat heeled over 
gently and Timothy got out. 

He pulled it half way up the lawn, tied a stone to the painter 
as a safeguard against advancing floods, took out the sculls and 
the sliding seat and with many a backward glance walked 
slowly to the house. 

He tried to savour what he felt, to be at once the subject and 
object of his consciousness. But you cannot fill a cup fuller 
than it will hold; the rest is lost. Timothy's being could not 
contain the rapture that was being poured down on it with the 
rain; he was more than mortal, but had no measure to tell him 
by how much. He knew the precious elixir was running to 
waste and longed for other dimensions of the spirit which like 
a reservoir would hold and store it. But something warned him 
that transience was the essential condition of his joy, that the 
price of having it was to lose it, that like the manna of the 
desert it would not keep to the next day. As well try to recap- 
ture the thrill of speed when the toboggan has come to rest. 
His mind told him this yet he did not believe it; he did not 
believe that the warm soft rain would not fall forever on his 
spirit as it was now falling on his body. 

Feeling like an emperor he entered the kitchen, but his words 
seemed woefully inadequate as he uttered them, and met with a 
like reception from the maids. 



458 THE BOAT 

"But you're all wet" — so Beatrice greeted Timothy's halting 
but momentous announcement. ''He looks like a drowned rat, 
doesn't he, Effie?" Since the notice had been given and taken 
both maids had adopted a more familiar as well as a more 
friendly manner with him. 

Effie looked at him speculatively. 

*'I shall have to iron Mr. Casson's suit," she said, ''and 
Simpson won't half carry on about his shoes." 

Looking down Timothy saw that he was standing in a puddle 
and for the first time realized that he was wet through. At 
another time the discovery would have horrified him, as some- 
thing that should never be allowed to happen, a departure 
from all his rules of life. But to-day he only said, and only felt, 
"I suppose I must go and change." 

As he was going out Beatrice called after him, "There are two 
telegrams for you in the hall. One came just after you had gone 
out, and the other a few minutes ago. Effie took them down, 
but she doesn't know if she got them right." 

"I couldn't hear, the line was that bad," complained Effie. 
"But they said they'd send you confirmation copies." 

Confirmation! Timothy's mind went back to that far-off 
divine event, from which his whole creation should have moved. 
How did his beliefs and aspirations then square with his present 
attitude? Suddenly he remembered Mrs. Purbright. Of all his 
thoughts she was the only one which still challenged his new 
conception of his rights and duties, and resisted the exaltation 
that had taken possession of him. He dared not risk the 
slightest parley with her. If one of the telegrams was from her, 
as well it might be, it would be wiser to destroy them both 
unread. Without looking at them he went up to change. 

"But, Mrs. Purbright, I'm afraid I don't agree with you. In 
my opinion what I am doing now, or just going to do, is a 
highly Christian act. I'm doing it entirely for the benefit of the 
poor and the oppressed. . . . No, it does not matter dividing 
the village into two camps, we've been over all that before. For 
one thing, it's misleading, in the highest degree misleading, to 
say two camps, when there are only a handful of people in one 
camp, and practically the whole population of the village, some 
five hundred people, in the other. Of course if you happen to 



THE BOAT 459 

be in the minority — the, in my opinion, negligible minority — 
it's just too bad. I'm afraid we shall have to liquidate you, 
sorry as I am to say it. You're making use of a class argument, to 
protect your own skin. . . . No, I simply don't understand 
you when you say that human beings should not be looked at 
that way, on two sides of a barricade. It's the way they are, and 
the way they always will be, until we get rid of the people on 
the other side. ... A personal matter? Really, Mrs. Put' 
bright, I wonder that you should have brought that up again . . . 
especially when you yourself told me you thought I had been 
badly treated, in the first place, about the boat. The house' 
agent's blurb and all that — the farrago of lies by which I was 
induced to take the house, from that excellent woman of 
business, Miss Chadwick — have you forgotten? You must 
have a very short memory. 1 have forgotten it, I need hardly 
say; it doesn't enter into my calculations in the least. I assure 
you that I had completely forgotten it until this moment. . . . 
I stand to gain anything by defying them? I don't know what 
you mean, Mrs. Pur bright. If you call vindicating other people's 
rights, by incidentally vindicating my own, gain — then it's a 
kind of gain I'm not ashamed of. . . . It wasn't that kind of 
gain, you say. Then, what kind of gain was it, pray? ... I 
know Miss Vera Cross, yes, of course I know her. A very 
beautiful and distinguished woman, who has not been appre^ 
ciated in this village as she should have been, if I may say so. 
Yes, she is a friend of mine, a close friend: do you object to 
that? Isn't that my affair? . . . Promise, promise, some form of 
prize or reward that may have influenced me ? I know of no such 
promise. Please be more explicit, Mrs. Purbright. . . . What ? 
. . . What? . . . Oh really to think that you, a clergyman's wife, 
should have made such an infamous suggestion ! The indelicacy 
of it! If only you had been a man, instead of an interfering, 
elderly woman, I should know how to answer you . . . ! " 

Timothy's dry clothes supplied the answer. The new flannel 
suit, bought off the peg for the occasion, fitted surprisingly well 
and made him look younger and fresher. By renewing his 
personality it renewed also his morale and jerked his thoughts 
back into their proper groove. By choosing, by preferring one 
course to another, he had annihilated all the arguments on the 



460 THE BOAT 

Other side ; they had ceased to exist, and could not be reborn in a 
telegram. 

The two slips of paper were identical. He took one up at 
random: 

Many thanks letter stop completely disagree with what you 
say but will fight to the death for your right to say it stop Up 
the rebels stop Have leave at last and will be with you for 
week-end. Tyro. 
And then the other: 

Worried by your letter dearest Timothy. I sympathise 
deeply with your difficulties and would like to discuss them 
with you. Will come on Friday unless you tell me not con- 
venient. Have little hope of finding servants for you. Most 
earnestly implore you to give up river plan. Love, Esther. 
'Tuncheon is served, sir,'' said Effie to Timothy's new, smart 
back. 

**Oh yes," said Timothy. He turned round. 'Tffie! You took 
down the telegrams perfectly all right. You didn't make a single 
mistake. I almost wish you had." 
"Thank you, sir." 

He followed her into the dining-room. It was Wednesday. 
Beatrice and Effie were due to leave on Saturday. Apart from a 
vague notion of going to an hotel in Swirrelsford, he had made 
no plans, except by making his will, for the future beyond 
today. After today, it had seemed to him, nothing mattered. 

But the telegrams reminded him that something did matter. 
Two guests had proposed themselves, and unless he had the 
means of entertaining them he must put them off. The telegrams 
were directed to a dead self, a non-existent Timothy, whose 
mind was sterile to any idea that did not bear on his present 
project. Still, these were his friends, the only friends he had, 
even if friendship now meant little more to him that a sense 
of obligation. 

* 'Effie," he said timidly, ''yo'^ know that two of my friends" — 
he tried to speak as if their name was legion — ''have asked if 
they could come for the week-end." 

"Indeed, sir?" said Effie, too well- trained to admit that she 
had taken in the purport of the telegrams. 

"Yes, Mrs. Morwen and Mr. MacAdam. I wonder if you and 



THE BOAT 461 

Beatrice would do me the great kindness of staying over Sun- 
day?" 

Effie's body wilted but her face went stiff and expressionless. 
*'I will go and ask Beatrice, sir," she said, and left the room. 

Timothy ate and pondered. Tyro had given his blessing to 
the River Revolt while disapproving of its motives; Esther 
sympathized with the motives but did not like the plan. How 
impossible it was to please everybody! How futile to try! 
The only thing was to do what one knew to be right, and 
Timothy did know. The sense of being right was the one state 
of mind that absorbed a man entirely, leaving nothing over, no 
stragglers, no malcontents to sabotage his effort. Nevertheless 
he began to wonder — for the mind sometimes has its fancies 
even when it is made up — how long this conviction of being 
right would last, after he had translated it into action. How 
would he feel, for instance, this evening? Or in two or three 
days' time, when Esther and Tyro were here ? What would they 
find to talk about? What did people talk about, who were not 
engaged to the full of their natures in expressing in action their 
conviction of what was right ? 

Timothy had talked about nothing else for many days and 
thought about nothing else, it seemed, for several weeks. He 
no longer needed his own propaganda, but others did. The one 
task of his tongue was to convert them. But afterwards? 

Well, afterwards the war would be on. Today was only the 
declaration of war. All he had done so far was to marshal 
his mass of manoeuvre, as the strategists used to say. After- 
wards it would be war. Esther and Tyro would be coming into a 
w?ir area. 

War, a war within a war. Suddenly he remembered the war 
outside his own, the World War, which he had not remembered 
for a long time, and immediately felt jealous of it. Yes, they 
would want to talk about the War, their war not his, for 
they were both, in their different ways, absorbed by it. They 
would brush his war aside. They would shake their heads over 
the German advance into Russia. They would discuss the 
food position and the submarine menace. They would speculate 
as to whether the German air bombardments were really 
weakening. They would have no time for his war. How could 



462 THE BOAT 

he bring himself to listen to them, chattering about a struggle 
in which the issues were so confused that none of the parties, 
except Russia, was certainly in the right? In which millions of 
innocent people were suffering and would suffer? In which 
nothing, Timothy was sure of it, would be settled when the 
conflict ended? Whereas here in Upton — 

If Effie and Beatrice decided to leave he would have no option 
but to put off Esther and Tyro; and it would be a relief, a 
real deliverance if they did not come. 

He raised his eyes. Effie was standing at his elbow, her colour 
heightened and her breath coming fast. 

*'If you please, sir, Beatrice says we will stay." 

*'Oh, Effie, how good of you both! I was afraid you might be 
due at your next place." 

*'No, sir, we're not suited yet. We could have been many 
times over, of course. But Beatrice thought we ought to take a 
holiday, *on my account,' she says." 

**Oh yes, quite right. But are you sure you wouldn't rather go 
on Saturday?" 

''Quite sure, sir. Beatrice said she wouldn't hear of it. We 
shan't let you down, sir, come what may." 

*'Well, that's very good of you," said Timothy, this time in 
an ungracious voice. *'I could so easily put them off," he added, 
hopefully. 

*'Oh no, sir, we couldn't let you do that. Besides we want to 
know how it's all going to end." 

*'How what's going to end?" asked Timothy. 

*'Well, sir, some people call it the River Riot and some people 
call it something which I couldn't very well tell you. But every- 
one thinks there'll be bloodshed before the end, sir." 

''Do they really, Effie?" 

"Oh yes, sir," said Effie, beginning to show a tremulous 
animation. "There's been a lot of tar-barrels outside Captain 
Sturrock's house, and nobody knows what they're there for." 

"I had noticed them," said Timothy. 

"And their maid has given notice — only she's not a real 
maid, she's a waif brought up on charity. But she won't stay, 
not with those tar-barrels so close." 

"I don't blame her," said Timothy heartily. 



THE BOAT 463 

''And Sir Watson Stafford has received several anomalous 
letters." 

''Really?" 

"And Commander Bellew tripped over a piece of rope, only 
it wasn't there by accident." 

"I hope he didn't hurt himself," said Timothy without 
thinking. 

"Oh yes, he did, sir, he strained his knee-cap. And they say 
he's asking for police protection, only Mr. Nelson doesn't tell 
us anything." 

"Has anything else happened?" asked Timothy. 

"Oh yes, sir. Somieone posted one of your notices inside the 
church door, and Mr. Purbright tore it down and burnt it. 
They say his face was something terrible when he lit the match." 

"Oh, I say," said Timothy. 

"Yes, and ever so many people have quarrelled, husbands 
and wives, too, and aren't on speaking terms. They say that 
Mr. Wimbush struck Mrs. Wimbush, but I shouldn't know 
that." 

"Oh dear, I'm sorry," said Timothy. "I always liked him so 
much." 

"Well, sir, it was her that was hurt, not him, though she was 
sticking up for you." 

"Most of the women seem to be on our side," said Timothy, 
to change the conversation. 

"Oh yes, sir, a good many, on account of always being 
unfairly treated. But it isn't the women who are calling for 
what they call the blood-bath, it's the men." 

"I don't want things to go too far, Effie," said Timothy 
uneasily. 

"Oh no, sir, but they'll have to be worse before they're better, 
won't they? Beatrice says she wouldn't miss it for worlds. Of 
course it was different before, but now she says she doesn't 
mind how long she stays." 

When referring to their departure both Beatrice and Efiie 
always gave the impression that they, not Timothy, had decided 
on it. Timothy did not object to this version of the event, 
indeed he rather welcomed it, as it shifted the responsibility 
fpr their dismissal on to them. He had for some time suspected 



k 



464 THE BOAT 

that they did not really want to go, and Eifie's last remark 
confirmed it. If Timothy implored, perhaps if he even asked, 
them to reconsider * 'their" intention to depart, they would do 
so gladly. And if they did, it would simplify everything. 
Timothy ought to have been glad, yet somehow he was not. 
He was relieved, on the whole, that they would stay over the 
week-end ; but the thought of their presence beyond that was a 
burden. Not only, or chiefly, because he didn't think it would 
answer; because, assured of their position, no longer under 
notice, they would slip back into their old despotic ways. 
No, his real reason for hoping they would go was that he could 
not make plans beyond today ; what was to happen next had no 
reality for him, he could not imagine himself taking part in 
the future, and he viewed with misgiving the commitments 
piling up all round him, which, he obscurely felt, he would never 
be able to discharge; even the week-end, so near, was an 
oppression. He was giving to the future unredeemable pledges. 
It was as though he had undertaken to climb the Matter- 
horn or do some other impossible feat. And these considera- 
tions disturbed the perfect image of felicity which the morning's 
work had brought him — the absolute harmony, the identifica- 
tion, one might say, between his time-conditioned being and the 
timeless desire that animated it. '*Apres le deluge, moi." Yes, he 
would still be there, picking up the pieces, clearing up the mess. 
Self-fulfilment was not the same as self-armihilation. It began to 
seem a grim joke, now. 

*' You'll be at the bridge, Efiie, this afternoon?" he asked. 

"Oh yes, sir, we're not going back on our promise and we're 
looking forward to it ever so much, at least Beatrice is. She 
says if anyone starts anything funny she's got something that 
will make them think twice. She won't tell me what it is but 
I believe it's a dagger. But you won't go, sir, not unless it clears 
up, will you?" added Effie, almost hopefully. 

'*Oh, it'll clear up all right, you'll see." 

The maids had the right spirit; he could talk to them. But 
what about his prospective guests? Timothy's mind went back 
to them. Esther and Tyro were bourgeois to the bone, capitalist 
drones, however hard they might appear to work. But after all, 
why must he have them ? For months he had implored them to 



THE BOAT 465 

come, and they had always refused. Now, just because it 
happened to suit them, they had decided to come, both of 
them, and almost without consulting him, or his convenience. 
They had proposed themselves. Why? (The obvious answer 
never occurred to Timothy.) They would not get on with each 
other, they hardly knew each other, and what they knew they 
did not like. And least of all would they like what they would 
find: a militant revolutionary, almost a Communist, absorbed 
in his activities and surrounded, quite literally, by the articles 
of his faith. 

Those pamphlets! Those inflammatory sheets, printed in 
smudged ink that showed through the paper, pathetic, perhaps, 
but proud, for they bore the tidings of the new gospel! They lay 
about the drawing'room for everyone to see; and though no 
one, except Effie and possibly Beatrice, had seen them (and of 
course. Vera, who had given them to him) was he to disown 
them, put them away, hide them, just because some people out 
of his dead life had chosen that moment to resurrect them^ 
selves ? Never ! They should be on view everywhere, even in his 
visitors' bedrooms; and he would insist on them being read, 
and commented on. 

His mind grew hot as he envisaged his guests' inevitable 
opposition to the pamphlets. Unlike as they were, they would 
sink their differences and combine against him. Esther would be 
reticent. Tyro vociferous in disagreement. All the arguments of 
reaction! He would have to convince them, and what weary 
word'slinging it would entail, that reaction, in the new vocabu- 
lary of ethics, was a synonym for sin. And why should he take 
the trouble? Converts over fifty were little use to the cause 
anyhow, fellow-travellers at best. It was no good arguing with 
the elderly; they would only pit their wits against his, and speak 
from unreal premises, unreal because since Marx the funda- 
mentals of thought had changed. Anyhow, the subject did not 
admit of argument; it could only be profitably discussed by 
people who agreed in principle, but possibly differed as to ways 
and means. The others must be eliminated. 

Eliminated! Timothy did not wish to eliminate Esther and 
Tyro in a general sense, but he could eliminate diem from the 
Old Rectory, and he would. They must be kept away. He only 



466 THE BOAT 

wanted to meet his own kind ; he could not be bothered to talk 
to reactionaries whose attitude would not, of course, shake his 
faith but would irritate the surface of his mind, rub him up the 
wrong way and dissipate his mental energy. Little, dark, bearded 
men unobtrusively carrying despatch cases were the sort he 
wanted to know, and Vera had promised that he should know 
them. 

He would write to Esther and Tyro, explaining that he now 
felt out of tune with people of their sort, and that their meeting 
would serve no useful purpose. He would say he still kept 
them in his thoughts, and wished them well and would 
welcome news of them from time to time; but any closer 
relationship between them must cease. Each would understand 
that this communication cancelled everything, everything, that 
he had said in previous letters. 

Meanwhile he must concoct two putting^off telegrams. . . . 

As he mused on how to phrase them, a shaft of sunlight came 
into the room. He jumped up and went out into the steamy, 
splashy afternoon to reconnoitre. It was still raining, but much 
less hard, and there was a break in the clouds which betokened 
the cessation of hostilities. *'Apres le deluge, moi. . . ." 

The water must have risen nearly a foot, for the boat, which 
he had left beached on the lawn, was once again afloat. It was 
lucky that he had anchored it; lucky, too, that he had taken the 
precaution of getting it out of the boat-house when he did, for 
by now it would have been immured beyond hope of release. 
But perhaps not lucky, perhaps he was merely fulfilling his own 
destiny. If only destiny would prompt him as effectually now ! 

He dragged the boat further up the slope, and the rainwater 
which had collected in it rushed tumultously into the stern, 
beyond the seat, lifting the rudder, which was lying there. He 
had not put the rudder in position yet. Vera would probably 
want to steer, but he hoped she wouldn't; on her own admis' 
sion she knew little about water-craft and would almost cer- 
tainly pull the wrong string; in this instance, her guidance 
would be a liability, not an asset. He would have to bale the 
boat out, but there would be time for that when the rain 
stopped. 

As he returned to the house his thoughts went back to Vera. 



THE BOAT 467 

Where, among these intrusions from the future, did she come 
in? The future was irrelevant; and strangely enough. Vera had 
never made herself part of it. She had spoken of developments 
in the situation in Upton, but as to the further progress of 
their situation, what they would do, after the day's and the 
night's consummation, she had not said a word. 

Timothy fell to thinking of that — for the past existed, 
however dubious the future. It seemed incredible now, but 
without that vulgar and trivial incentive, the carrot dangled 
before the donkey, he would never have embarked on this 
great enterprise. Indeed he remembered, as a matter of historic 
fact, that until she made the promise his whole being was 
opposed to the idea. And now, though the thought sweetened 
and revived his fancy, it seemed only an adjunct, an adjunct to 
the fulfilment of his dream, an adjunct that detracted from its 
disinterestedness. He almost wished she had not made it. . . . 

But as the afternoon passed, and the sun came out in earnest, 
as he had known it would, and tea was announced, and the 
zero hour approached, his feelings underwent a revolution and 
he found himself longing for her and counting the minutes till 
she came. In telling him tea was ready Effie had adopted a 
manner she had never used to him before. He might have been 
a matador bound for the arena, and she an aficionada bidding 
him farewell. As the image entered his mind he seemed to see 
the tiers of seats, in which all humanity was congregated, 
gradually receding from him, leaving him alone but for a few 
skirmishers to await the onset of the bull. 

As he sat looking at her empty place a sense of utter lone* 
liness possessed him, of being cut off from humankind. Until 
then he had not realized how much he counted on her and to 
what a degree his grand idea, that had seemed so abstract, had 
its true lodging in her flesh and blood. 

At half past five he went into the kitchen, carrying the 
cushions of the boat. The maids were moving about with an air 
of controlled excitement, dressed in their best clothes: they 
looked at him questioningly, without speaking. **Miss Cross 
hasn't come yet," he said, making the statement sound as flat 
and ordinary as he could; "I shall go and get the boat ready, and 
if she doesn't come, I must start without her." They stood still 



468 THE BOAT 

and made no comment; there was no sound in the room until 
suddenly Timothy heard the thud of Felix's tail and his chain 
grating on the flag-stones ; and the next thing he knew was that 
the dog had launched itself on him, with the crafty and 
humorous smile which he kept for these assaults. Absently 
Timothy fondled his silky head and Felix lumbered up on to his 
hind-legs and tried to lick Timothy's face. 

"Down, Felix, down, you'll ruin my new trousers." 

But Felix paid no attention. Only force could curb his 
appetite for love and as Timothy felt the weight and warmth 
of his body he became aware of the warmth and staunchness of 
his nature, too. 

''Are you taking Felix with you?" he asked Beatrice. 

''Oh no, sir, I shouldn't like to risk it. He might go mad and 
bite someone." 

"Well, could he come with me? After all, he's a water-dog." 

Beatrice demurred, but only formally; she saw that Timothy's 
heart was set on taking Felix ; and Felix, the moment he divined 
from Timothy's voice that an adventure was afoot, went wild 
with excitement. 

Disappointingly, he did not swim or take to the water in a 
large way ; while Timothy baled out the boat he paddled in the 
shallows with a serious air, and so much absorbed was he by 
exploring this new element that he did not raise his head when 
Timothy, his task complete, went off to make a final telephone 
call to Vera. 

"No, she's not come in yet," said Frances, civil and non- 
committal. "I can't think what's kept her." Nor was she in sight 
when Timothy took a last look down the road. 

She had promised to put on his favour with her own hands. 
Now Timothy had to pin on the paper boat himself. "A Free 
River for a Free People!" The lonely drop of blood from 
Timothy's pricked finger did not warm as it should have done 
to this proud rallying-cry. Nor did he get the thrill he hoped for 
when he tied the Union Jack on to the stern, or the much greater 
afflatus of spirit when the Hammer and Sickle fluttered in the 
bow. 

Simpson had gone home and Timothy must launch himself. 
Again it was the unexpected that gave trouble. The cushions 



THE BOAT 469 

must be kept clean for Vera who, Timothy still hoped, would 
join him at the bridge, but Felix had taken a fancy to them and 
would not be dislodged. Nor, which was much worse, would 
the boat. It had worn itself a groove in the soft turf and would 
not budge. Supposing he could not shift it ? Supposing that the 
population of Upton, bridge-bound, awaited it in vain? 

But in this crisis, Felix was a help. It needed only their joint 
weight in the stern to set the boat afloat. A single shove with 
the sculls and the Argo was already under way. Argo ! The name 
was emblazoned on the woodwork of the seat, in rather vulgar 
lettering, gold edged with black. As Argo the boat would lose its 
perilous associations ; as Jason Timothy would shed his craven 
fears. 

The blades of grass, pearl-grey with clinging air-bubbles, 
sank out of sight as they neared the river bank. How deep the 
water was Timothy could not tell, for churned-up mud made it 
almost opaque. Felix, who never really liked taking a back seat, 
squeezed his broad rump into the angle of the bows, and sat 
down back to back with Timothy, in an heraldic attitude, 
sniffing the air, and looking round him with insensate pride. 

Once in the current all Timothy had to do was to keep 
straight and avoid the projecting branches, some of Vv^hich had 
probably once overhung, but now were in the water. Timothy 
was an experienced but not an expert oarsman ; his stymie was 
nondescript but within limits he could make the boat obey him. 
So he was free to feast his eyes, as he flashed by, on the land- 
scape that had been forbidden him so long. What he had hoped 
to see he hardly knew. Prairies? Jungles? Parakeets? Apes? It 
was all rather tame but he did not really mind, for he saw it 
with a conqueror's enchanted eye. Only one thing disappointed 
him. His progress was too easy and too quick. He had stored up 
in himself enough nervous energy and resistance to tackle the 
Amazon, and nothing was calling it into play. He felt as an 
elephant might feel, picking up a pea. 

After a bend or two the river straightened. On Timothy's 
right a path appeared, an asphalt urbanized path, down which 
he had often walked; and along it were running two small 
boys, their knees and elbows working like pistons. ''Give us 
a ride, Mister!" they chanted in a whining sing-song. "Give 



470 THE BOAT 

US a ride!" So little did they look where they were going that 
Timothy was afraid they would fall into the river ; and more for 
that than for any other reason he drew the boat into the bank 
and told them to get in. 

Felix turned his head, moved forward and gave a growl, 
which said as plainly as possible, 'Keep out of my boat.' 

The little boys, who were stepping in, scrambled back in a 
hurry. 

''Will your dog hurt us. Mister?" asked the bigger of the 
two, in his plangent, lilting voice. Timothy assured them he 
would not. 'Tve never known him growl before, except over a 
bone. Lie down, Felix!" 

Still grumbling, his nose wrinkled in disgust, Felix resumed 
his heraldic posture at the prow. The Hammer and Sickle 
flapped against his chest. The little boys, so strangely re- 
miniscent of Gerald and Billy Kimball, sat side by side, facing 
Timothy with tense, expectant eyes. The bridge was in sight. 
Timothy swung the boat into midstream, braced himself and 
put on a spurt. He had already practised in his mind the 
manoeuvre by which he must take the boat out of the current, 
turn it round and bring it to the steps ; miraculously, he pulled it 
off, all in one movement, so it seemed; and it was this master- 
stroke which gave Nelson such a favourable impression of 
his oarsmanship. Evidently it impressed the rest of the on- 
lookers, too, for they gave him a ragged but rousing cheer. 
Landing on the steps, he tied the painter to the ring; it was taut 
in a moment. Retiring to his seat he looked up at the audience. 

It was much smaller than he had expected and been promised, 
just enough people to line the parapet, with a handful looking 
over the others' shoulders. The faces were lively with curiosity 
and amusement, rather than stern with political resolve, yet 
they all kept their eyes on Timothy. One or two fathers lifted 
their children on to the parapet so that they could see him 
better, and silence fell when he began to speak. 

He told them little that he had not told them personally, 
in his rounds from house to house. He reminded them of their 
rights and liberties which were being taken from them; land' 
lords, he said, were becoming water-lords; soon they would 
claim the sky. "We cannot boat or bathe without their per- 



THE BOAT 471 

mission; soon we shall not be allowed to breathe." He had 
nothing against these gentlemen themselves, he said ; he was as 
ready to touch his hat to them as any man in the village. He 
did not want to interfere with or curtail their pleasures, which 
were bringing them so much health and happiness in their 
declining years. But he did ask them, and begged his hearers 
to ask them, too, to share their privileges with those less 
fortunate than themselves. And it was no use asking politely; 
he had tried that. They must ask loudly and if necessary rudely ; 
and if words brought no redress they must resort to deeds. 
Many of them were employed by these — he would not say 
tyrants, tyrants was an old'fashioned word. Nor would he say 
dictators. Dictators was too strong: the gentlemen in question 
were not dictators — yet. But they would be if nobody stood 
up to them and stopped them. ''They can't get on without you," 
Timothy said. ''They rely on you to do their work — some of it is 
rather dirty work — for them, or how would they live? You 
must organize and tell them that unless they give you and your 
children your just rights (for I'm thinking about the children 
almost more than you, children like these in the boat — see 
how happy they look), you won't do any more to make their 
lives easy and comfortable for them; you will strike. Strike, 
that's the word to use. That will make them sit up and take 
notice. And if they answer, 'Strike if you like, we don't mind, 
we've got money in the bank and we can get on without you,' 
then you must use other methods. I won't say now what they 
are, because we don't want them to know, do we ? If they knew, 
they might take steps to protect themselves. We want whatever 
comes, to come as a surprise. 

"But if and when you do this I don't want you to feel any 
enmity for them in your hearts. I don't myself and I've suffered 
from them almost as much as you have. We must feel that we're 
doing it for them, not against them, to bring them to their 
senses. If they only knew it, they'd be much happier if they 
weren't so selfish." 

The little crowd continued to listen; but Timothy was too 
far away to see what effect his words were having. He only knew 
that he himself was moved by them ; he even felt that tliey were 
being said for the first time. And encouraged by his eloquence 



472 THE BOAT 

he went on: 

"You've been very patient. I don't want to talk about myself, 
because I've got no importance, I'm nothing but a mouthpiece. 
But you know all about me — I've lived with you for eighteen 
months, and I can honestly say — I can honestly say that I've 
become very fond of you all. You have treated me very kindly — 
all of you at Upton except a few I won't bother to name, and 
anyhow they aren't here with us to-day — very kindly, and much 
better than I had any right to expect, coming amongst you as a 
stranger. We've met together at the pub . . . and . . . and else- 
where, and had a lot of jolly talks. And I should like you to 
know how grateful I am for that, and to thank you, too, for 
coming here today, which didn't begin very promisingly, but has 
turned out, I can truly say, to be the happiest day of my life." 

Timothy stopped ; he could no longer look at the spectators ; 
his head drooped and he kept his eyes, where every oarsman 
should keep them, in the boat. It was the only speech he had 
made in his life, and it was over. There was no sound save the 
gurgling and rushing of the water. But suddenly the silence was 
broken by a note of music, which swelled into a song. 

'Tor he's a joUy good fellow." Timothy forgot that this had 
been arranged for. He was taken by surprise and deeply moved. 
Exposed in the boat, upright on the absurd sliding seat, with his 
feet against the stretcher, he had no way of concealing his 
embarrassment, except from himself, by closing his eyes. Pleased 
with this proof of modesty, enjoying his confusion, the crowd 
sang still more lustily, and at the end they gave him three cheers. 

With tears in his voice Timothy thanked them. ''When I 
was a little chap," he wound up, "the thing I enjoyed most in 
the world was to be in a boat. I believe children are still the 
same, and I can't tell you how happy it makes me, on this, my 
first outing on the river, to have these little fellows with me. 
Turn round and wave to them, sonnies." Cries of "Ah! Aren't 
they sweet?" greeted the lads' salute. 

"Is it over. Mister? Can we start now?" the talkative one 
asked. But it wasn't quite over. Most of the spectators waited on 
the bridge to see Timothy set off; some strolled towards the 
village, making comments to each other which Timothy longed 
to hear; and a few, chiefly mothers with children, came down 



THE BOAT 473 

from the bridge in his direction. At the steps they stopped. 

''Could you give Frankie a ride?" a mother asked him. 
''He's fond of boating, same as you are, only he hasn't never 
been in a boat." 

Frankie was pushed forward, and looked at Timothy 
appealingly. 

"And Charlie would like to come, too," said another mother. 
"Ever since we told him what you meant to do, Mr. Casson, 
he's been on to us to let him go with you. He doesn't give us 
any peace, do you, Charlie? I expect it's in the blood, his father 
was a sailor." 

"My little girl would like to go, too," said another woman, 
standing behind the others. "She doesn't wish to push herself 
forward, of course, but she could help you to row, Mr. Casson, 
she's gone boating several times at Swirreslford." 

Several other children, unvouched for and unannounced, 
crowded on to the steps and fixed on Timothy glances eloquent 
with implied reproach. 

"But we don't want any more, do we, Mister?" said the elder 
of Timothy's two passengers. "We got here first, didn't we?" 
And Felix, evidently sharing this sentiment, underlined it with 
a growl. 

"Shut up, Felix," said Timothy, distressed by the exclusive 
and possessive attitude of his living freight. 

"I wish I could take you all," he said, addressing the em- 
battled mothers, "but Fm afraid I'm full up already. Soon, I 
hope, there'll be a whole fleet of boats stationed here, enough to 
take everybody." 

"I didn't think you'd descend to favouritism," another, more 
educated woman said. "What's the good of gassing about the 
freedom of the river, when you've packed the boat with your 
friends?" 

Timothy had no answer to this, and felt his temper rising. 
Soon the heckling started in a new quarter. 

"And you've got a dog. You said the boats were to be for 
human beings and children. Why can't you leave the dog and let 
Albert go instead?" 

"Because he's my dog," began Timotliy angrily. Then, 
realizing this was a bad gambit, suggesting delight in private 



474 THE BOAT 

property, he hastily explained that Felix, if landed, might get 
lost. * 'Besides, he knows how to swim," he added humorously. 

**My Frankie knows how to swim," said Frankie's mother. 
**But I bet those two boys you've got there don't know how to. 
And they don't belong to Upton either. They're Birmingham 
bred, they are, they haven't any right on our river, Mr. Casson.'* 

The little boys, who had been following this closely, saw their 
trip threatened and looked at Timothy in alarm. 

*'But we're all right, aren't we, Mister?" said their spokesman, 
determined to have the word ''right," whatever it meant, on his 
side. "And we asked the gentleman first." 

"Those town boys are too blasted nippy, if you ask me," said 
one of the women. 

"Well, they did get there first," admitted Timothy. "And I 
don't think it would be safe to take any more." Suddenly he 
had an idea. "If you'll come here tomorrow at this time" — he 
stopped, assailed anew by the unreality of tomorrow. But he 
had to finish the sentence. "I'll take any three of you," he said. 

Murmuring, only half satisfied, the rejected passengers edged 
away from the steps. The remaining spectators on the bridge. 
Nelson, Beatrice and Effie among them, craned their necks. 
This was the moment Timothy dreaded; the current was so 
strong that he might not get clear of the bank in time to avoid 
being swung against the masonry. 

Stepping ashore he untied the painter and hauled the boat a 
few yards upstream, until a low-growing bush barred further 
progress. Clinging to the bush he lowered himself into the boat, 
holding it with his feet until he could sit down. Released, it 
swung outwards and backwards, but he was able to get two fiee 
strokes, putting the boat with its bow to the bridge, before the 
current caught him. Looking up, as he was swept under, he saw 
Nelson's admiring eyes and pride in the foreshortened faces of 
Beatrice and Effie. 

The bridge disappeared from sight as though snatched away 
by a scene-shifter, and he was alone on the uncharted water. 
At least, he felt alone; for his three passengers made no de- 
mands on his thoughts, as the spectators had. He had discharged 
his human obligations ; he had done what he could for mankind ; 
now he could enjoy his reward, which was to be rid of them. 



THE BOAT 475 

The rairi'bright green of the trees was turning to gold. As 
the river bent outwards to his right, the westering sun shone 
down it into Timothy's eyes. But the current was not so strong 
as it had been: he could turn round and watch the gUtter as it 
passed from tree to tree. Once or twice he tried to fix a spot in 
his memory, thinking 'Til come back there," only to find his 
memory would not retain the image. Soon the trees grew 
thicker ; their crests alone were lit up now ; below, the gathering 
of a premature twilight enfolded him in a tingling secrecy of 
shade. On his right, the hills which bounded the re-entrant 
to the valley came down steeply to the water's edge ; on his left 
the ground was flat, but more thickly wooded and no less 
miysterious — openings lengthened into glades, and glades into 
sunlit vistas, which were gone before his eye had time to explore 
them to the end. 

Only one thing impaired the deep translucency which gave 
the scene its magic. Too turbid to hold a reflection, the surface 
of the river made a discordant streak in the melting symphony 
of trees and sky ; they looked down on it in vain for shadows 
of themselves, and Timothy's thoughts, which in other direc- 
tions were gently led on into infinity, rebounded from it like a 
stone from a wall. 

The little boys, relaxed and happy, trailed grimy fingers in the 
grimy flood. 

''Are you going to take us back, Mister?" one of them asked. 

"Of course," said Timothy. "Did you think I should want 
you to walk?" 

"We didn't know. Mister," said the child. "We can walk . . . 
oh ever such a long way, can't we, Reg?" 

"Oh yes," said Reg. "We could walk to the moon." 

"We could walk to the sun." 

"We could walk right up to Heaven." 

They both thought this a tremendous joke, and laughed 
uproariously, pommelling each other with their watery fists. 

"Can you swim, too?" 

"Well, only when someone's holding us." 

They had reached the bend in tlie horseshoe; they were 
traversing its noble curve. Now the tree-tops in front of 
Timothy were beginning to light up, and little by little the 



476 THE BOAT 

golden radiance stole down their sides and the film of shadow- 
lifted. Timothy could only see about fifty yards each way, so 
sharp was the curve. Soon it grew wider, then straightened out 
into an avenue which ended in the sun. Here the river gave the 
impression, which a river seldom gives, of going downhill, and 
Timothy felt the boat increase its pace. 

From out of his reverie he saw the little boys looking fixedly 
at the left'hand bank. 

''Who was that lady. Mister? She was pretty," asked the 
smaller of the two. 

''Lady? I didn't see any lady," said Timothy. 

"Pooh!" said the elder boy. "I see her and she wasn't pretty, 
she was Miss Cross." 

"Miss Cross!" exclaimed Timothy. "Are you sure?" 

"Yes, she was sitting against a tree, watching us." The boy 
spoke as if Vera's position established her identity beyond all 
possibility of mistake. 

"I think you must be wrong." But Timothy didn't think so. 
Spreading from his breast, the incredible news ran down his 
nerves to the tips of his fingers. One scull scraped the water; 
if he had been pulling hard he would have caught a crab. As it 
was, the boat swerved and heeled over. 

"Ow, Mister! Do that again." Anxious to repeat the sensa- 
tion, the little boys tried to make the boat rock. 

"Oh, do sit still." 

In vain Timothy tried to restore the rhythm of his rowing. 
The mechanism was no longer automatic; the thoughts that 
were jerking his mind jerked his body, too. Thinking of how to 
row made him nervous. He looked round anxiously. The 
children sensed his disquiet. 

"Are you tired. Mister?" 

Timothy shook his head. His lips were trembling and he did 
not trust himself to speak. 

"Oh, what is that noise. Mister? Is it a wild animal got loose 
in the woods?" Timothy heard the noise but did not answer. 
The boat sped on. 

"Oh, who's that man waving his arms. Mister?" 

Uncertain of his balance, Timothy preferred not to look 
round. 



THE BOAT 477 

'"Tisn't a man," said the elder scornfully. ''Don't you know 
who it is? It's Mr. Wimbush." 

*'Wimbush!" exclaimed Timothy. 

''Yes, Mister, he's waving his arms at us." 

Gingerly Timothy looked round and there sure enough was 
Wimbush, standing on the bank, gesticulating and shouting. 

A wave of blind anger surged up in Timothy. "So he's trying 
to turn us off the river, is he?" he muttered. "Let him try." He 
took his hand off the scull and, half-rising in his seat, tried to 
shake his fist at his ex-gardener. The boat lurched and shipped 
some water. 

"Oh, Mister, be careful. The dog nearly fell out." 

Felix must have thought his position unsafe, for a moment 
later, at the end of his backward swing, Timothy touched the 
dog's body and felt his warm breath on his neck. Wimbush 
was running alongside, still waving his arms, and calling out 
"Go back, go back." But Timothy couldn't go back, if he had 
wanted to. 

The boat began to bump and toss as lateral waves — the flood 
water of the river thrown back by the bank — struck against it 
and passed under with a sucking sound. Streaks and patches of 
dirty foam appeared on the tormented surface. The boat 
writhed and wriggled beneath Timothy and would not answer to 
the sculls. The little boys clung to each other. Suddenly he saw 
terror staring in their eyes. 

"Oh Mister, what's happening? The river's gone!" 

Involuntarily Timothy looked round. It was true; the river 
had disappeared; a few yards ahead, beyond a fissured mound of 
spray-streaked water, there was no more river. 

"Lie down in the bottom of the boat!" he called out, but the 
children were too frightened to understand and clung to each 
other, whimpering. A moment later they were flung forward on 
their faces as the boat plunged into the waterfall. 

Timothy, too, was unseated, but Felix's body broke his fall 
and he managed to scramble back. He tried to ship the oars, for 
they were useless now and might get broken; but the crazy 
movement of the boat prevented him. All he could do was to 
cling, spread-eagled, to the struts of the rowlocks, while the 
boat crashed from boulder to boulder. Most of the boulders 



478 THE BOAT 

were invisible, sheathed in a curving muscle of water; but here 
and there one stuck out, jagged and threatening. 

If only the boat did not turn broadside on, they might yet 
reach the bottom safely. Still clinging to the struts, Timothy 
strained his eyes. They were more than halfway down the stair- 
case but at the foot, guarding the pool, a big flat rock, only half 
covered by water, barred their way. Nearer and nearer it came. 
Timothy could already see the water of the pool, heaving and 
churning but promising safety. He glanced into the boat. The 
boys were lying on the floor, clasped in each other's arms, like 
kittens ; Felix, shivering, was trying hard to keep his feet. The 
rock was upon them now. Timothy closed his eyes. 

He felt a heavy blow and heard a crack, and the next thing he 
knew he was in the water. 

His first feeling was one of immeasurable relief and freedom, 
combined with surprise that the water was so warm. Now at any 
rate he was his ov/n master, and could act instead of being 
acted on. Round his head were clots of yellow spume like 
miniature mountains. He clove his way through them and saw, 
first the boat with a gash in its side, slowly turning round in the 
middle of the pool; then Felix, with a smile on his face, swim- 
ming towards him. But he could not see the boys. 

The boat was only a few yards away and fending Felix off 
Timothy swam towards it. But his legs were swept from under 
him and in a moment he found himself in another part of the 
pool. From here he could see two little heads, and arms that 
feebly reached out to each other. He called out to them and 
renewed his efforts ; this time he was on them in a trice and had 
hardly time to grasp the collar of one before he was again 
whirled away, this time in the main current towards the mouth 
of the pool. Frantically he fought with the current which, while 
it was carrying him, seemed to offer no more resistance to his 
strokes than if it had been air. They were nearing the edge when 
all of a sudden the water seemed to solidify, the ground rushed 
forward to meet him, and all he had to do was to lift the child, 
who was speechless with fright, on to the bank. 

As he did so he heard a splash and saw another head in the 
water, a big, familiar head. Wimbush had come to the rescue, 
and was swimming with the same stroke that Felix used, but less 



I 



THE BOAT 479 

expertly, towards the other boy. Good old Wimbush ! Now all 
would be well. 

Knee deep in water, he paused to get his breath. Wimbush 
was not making much headway. His strength, so triumphant on 
land, did not seem to serve him in the water. Felix was at the 
far side, looking for a landing. His head jerked to the rhythm 
of his strokes ; he kept changing his direction and trying a fresh 
place. When he saw Timothy he swam towards him, still 
wearing his smile, though his eyes looked anxious and his nose 
was closer to the water-line. The boy had drifted nearer to the 
middle, where the whirlpool was turning him slowly round. 
Only the top of his head was visible, and just before a freak of 
the current brought Wimbush to the spot it sank. Timothy 
saw Wimbush put his head under the water, grope with his 
arm, and fish something up. It was the boy's elbow. His head 
followed, looking tiny beside Wimbush's. Timothy drew a 
long breath. Now they must all be safe. But no. A languor 
suddenly appeared in Wimbush's movements; he turned un- 
seeing eyes towards Timothy and a great sigh seemed to bubble 
from his lips. Timothy ran round the pool to the place where 
Wimbush had got in, trusting that the current would take him 
to where Wimbush was. It did, but he was only just in time: 
Wimbush was sinking; the weight of the child's body on his 
arm was helping to thrust him under. Timothy got his hands 
under the man's shoulders and turning on his back struck out 
for the shore. The load was heavy and the current contrary and 
a sense of oncoming disaster dulled his mind and clogged his 
movements. But he was doing better than he knew when the 
boat, which was drifting about half full of water, suddenly 
spun round and struck him on the head. It was not a heavy 
blow but it was enough. Timothy's legs went down, his forehead 
bowed to meet the water, and his arms, losing their hold, spread 
out and hung downwards as if beginning an embrace. 

From the bank, a few yards away, the little boy watched the 
group with terrified eyes, crying "Mister! Mister! Mister!" 



480 THE BOAT 



CHAPTER XXXI 

Colonel Harbord did not feel altogether happy about the 
upshot of his conversation with the Purbrights. His mind was still 
convinced that a policy of non-interference was the right one; 
it had the Rector's approval and the approval of everyone he 
knew. No good would come of meddling, and left to itself the 
agitation would blow over. Casson was a crank of a kind which 
often turned up in country villages ; a misfit, and his own worst 
enemy. What he wanted now was what he had always wanted : 
to be taken notice of. Centuries of tradition had made village 
people shrewd; they might be attracted by the novelty of a 
campaign like Casson' s, but they did not really like self-adver- 
tisement and soon saw through it. No one else, he was quite 
sure, wanted to row on the river; none of the inhabitants of 
Upton had thought it a hardship that they couldn't until Casson 
had unsettled them. 

Casson had invented a grievance in order to air his half- 
baked notions, and in doing so he had managed to stir up a lot 
of mud. He was the type of fellow — they were not unknown in 
the Army — who would always be up against it. The life he had 
lived since he came to Upton was not such as to induce ordinary 
level-headed people to feel much confidence in him. Live and 
let live, by all means, but there were limits, and Casson, from 
what he heard, had decidedly over-stepped them. Say what 
you would, a fellow who didn't play games, and didn't want to 
fish in a place where every normal man wanted to fish, must 
have something queer about him. If only he had been some kind 
of sportsman ! 

These were comforting opinions and comforting, too, was 
the knowledge that everyone he knew endorsed them — every- 
one except Mrs. Pur bright. 

Mrs. Purbright's eccentricity was well-known, and as much 
respected as Timothy's was not. People might smile at her and 
her affection for lame dogs and lost causes, but they recognized 
her sincerity. She was a scapegoat for their unavowable virtues 



THE BOAT 481 

and they were proud of her. 

Colonel Harbord shared their regard for Mrs. Purbright, and 
he did not want to disappoint her. At the time, it had seemed 
enough to join her husband in good-naturedly confuting her 
views of what ought to be done — her fantastic, impracticable 
views, which were contrary to sense and reason. Afterwards 
she would see the force of the argument and come round to 
their way of thinking. At least a man would, and a woman who 
argued put herself in the position of a man. 

But Mrs. Purbright had not seen reason; woman-like she had 
been thoroughly upset, and the memory of her distress tugged 
at his heart-strings as he walked home, and modified the half 
humorous account of the conversation that he was preparing 
for his wife. Nor, to his surprise, did Mrs. Harbord see eye to 
eye with him in unequivocally turning down Mrs. Purbright's 
proposal. *'Do you want me to go to the bridge, then?" he said, 
"wearing my white sheet and taking my stool of repentance?" 
His wife laughed. "No, but I think you could still do something. 
Men are always the same. They think that if someone holds a 
certain kind of opinion, then he must be a certain kind of 
person." 

"But doesn't it follow?" 

Placid and quiet-eyed, Mrs. Harbord looked up from her 
sewing. 

"Not necessarily." 

Colonel Harbord gave a despairing sigh. 

"You don't tell me what I ought to do, I notice." 

"There are other places, besides the bridge," said Mrs. 
Harbord. "As a soldier, do you only attack at one point?" 

To have introduced the military metaphor was a mistake. 
Colonel Harbord, though in many ways a broad-minded man, 
did not like amateurs to have opinions about military matters. 
He said that only the soldier in the field could judge. So he did 
not ask his wife what she meant. All the same, her observation 
lingered in his mind, reinforcing Mrs. Purbright's plea. 

Though he would not go to the ceremony, neither could he 
quite keep away from it, and soon after six, when he beUeved 
that the meeting would be over, he strolled down to the bridge 
with a vague idea of asking someone how it had gone off. But 



482 THE BOAT 

when he saw the rabble coming away, wearing their favours and 
chatting to each other, he could not bring himself to. Great 
was his relief, therefore, to see Nelson on the bridge, a level- 
headed fellow and the guardian of law and order. 

Nelson saluted him. 

"Well, Nelson, it's nothing to do with me, but what's been 
happening?" 

Nelson, fresh from his conversation with Mrs. Pur bright, 
who even now might have been seen speeding down the road, 
had the whole thing at his tongue's end. 

''Oh, nothing very much, sir. Mr. Casson just made an 
exhibition of himself, as I might say." 

''I can believe you," said Colonel Harbord, drily. ''Is it true 
that he's some kind of Bolshy?" 

"I couldn't tell you that, sir, but he rows a beautiful oar." 

"Oh, does he?" said Colonel Harbord, pricking up his ears. 

"Yes, he does, sir. I've been in the rowing business myself, 
sir, so I know what I'm talking about. Mr. Casson's far and 
away the best oar I've ever seen, and I've seen a few. " 

"You don't say so, Nelson." 

"It say it, sir, and what's more, I state it. There isn't another 
oarsman in the West Country as can touch Mr. Casson. That 
drive of his from the stretcher, sir, well, it's like a song." 

"I had no idea he was that kind of oar," said Colonel Har- 
bord, in a different tone. 

"No, sir, and not many had. He never gave himself airs at all. 
But all the time he had it in him." 

"Evidently." 

"He used to be some kind of champion at college, I've been 
told. Head of the River, I think it's called. You couldn't count 
the number of cups he's won. But he's never had a chance to 
show what he's made of until now. The people were delighted 
with his display, especially his feathering." Nelson demon- 
strated. "They cheered and cheered." Aware of the impression 
he was creating. Nelson made bold to add, "You ought to have 
seen him, sir." 

"I almost wish I had," said Colonel Harbord. He looked over 
the parapet at the swollen water. 

He was not much of a judge of oarsmanship, and told himself 



I 



THE BOAT 483 

that he would not have appreciated the fine points of Timothy's, 
but he was a judge of danger — an impartial, professional judge. 
A sixth sense that had come with training told him when this 
was present, just as surely as, or more surely than, it warns a 
stock'broker of the risk he runs. 

Turning away from the angry, rushing river he said, ''Well, 
rather him than me. But he must be a sportsman to start out 
with the river in the state it is." 

The operative, the redeeming word slipped out without his 
noticing it; but Nelson noticed. 

"Yes, sir, he is. A grand sportsman. And that ought to be 
known far and wide." 

Colonel Harbord pondered, and remembered his wife's 
remark, 'There are other places besides the bridge." 

"Is that your car down there. Nelson?" he asked. 

"Yes, sir, it is, the same car that Mr. Casson kindly allows 
me to put in his subsidiary garage, and without charge. It's an 
Agamemnon eight, sir, with — " 

"So I see," said Colonel Harbord, "and a very nice car, too. 
Could you run me down to some place where we could see 
Mr. Casson in ... in action?" 

"That would be above the Devil's Staircase, sir, but that's on 
Sir Watson Stafford's land." 

"Oh, he won't mind us going over it." 

Nelson complied with alacrity, and for a matter of a mile 
made the car show its best paces. Then gates had to be opened. 
At the last one they got out, to walk the rest of the way ; and it 
was then that they heard, above the roar of the river, a shrill, 
repeated cry. 

"Sounds like a child's voice," said Colonel Harbord. They 
quickened their steps and the policeman had to remind the man 
in Nelson not to run. 

Rivulets were trickling down the mound, which, artificially 
reinforced, held up the pool. The two men splashed through 
them and came panting to the top. 

"Ah!" they both exclaimed, and the sound went to swell the 
sad gale of sighs that greets calamity in every land. 

The three unfortunates, pathetically close to each other, were 
linked in a brotherhood of death. Humped bodies with 



484 THE BOAT 

dangling limbs, in attitudes from which the grace of life had fled, 
they were lying half in and half out of the water, where the 
current had carried them, a few feet from the shore. Between 
them and the shore, head down, tail drooping, stood Felix. 
He was whining and shivering, and from time to time he made 
short rushes at the bodies, and then backed away, as if afraid to 
touch them. 

They had drifted over the river^bank on to the flood water; 
and Colonel Harbord and Nelson had only to wade in knee-deep 
to get them out. The policeman took Wimbush, the heaviest, 
whose hand still rested on the little boy; Colonel Harbord 
pulled out Timothy, then Nelson made a second journey for 
the child. To neither of them was the scene fraught with the 
horror it would have had for most people, but Colonel Harbord 
took his hat off, and Nelson, seeing this, removed his helmet. 

**We'd better try artificial respiration," Colonel Harbord 
said. **You know your First Aid, Nelson. It's lucky I've 
rubbed up mine." He took his coat off. The other boy, who 
had been silent since they came, partly from fright, partly from 
awe of Nelson, suddenly piped up, **Are you going to take them 
to the lock-up. Mister?" 

Neither of the men answered, but they exchanged glances, 
for the same thought had struck them both : which of the three 
victims was to be sacrificed for the sake of the others ? 

Colonel Harbord, however, was accustomed to making 
decisions. 

''Let's leave the lad for the minute," he said. "He's . . . well, 
he's just unlucky. Perhaps we shall get one of the others round 
before long." 

They kneeled down in the approved fashion, and after a 
sidelong look to make sure they were both using the same 
method, they worked in silence, each throwing his weight 
against the lower ribs of the prone body under him. "One, 
two, three, up! One, two, three, up!" They caught the rhythm 
from each other, and even breathed in unison; and the bodies 
breathed in unison, too, every few seconds exhaling bubbles, 
water and a gusty sigh. 

Felix, meanwhile, could not bear to be left out. Nelson was 
his friend and therefore the first victim of his helpful attentions. 



THE BOAT 485 

He nuzzled against Nelson and tried to lick the back of Wim- 
bush's neck. Nelson dug him in the ribs with his elbow and 
spoke to him in a way he had never been spoken to before ; so 
Felix, after several such rebuffs, left him for Colonel Harbord. 

"What are we to do about this damned dog, Nelson?" 

"I'll get rid of him, sir." 

But it was difficult to convince Felix that he was not wanted. 
A kick was not enough; he merely backed away a yard or two, 
wagging his tail and waiting for the moment when his friendly 
advances should wear down human obtuseness. Nelson had to 
take a stick to him, of which there were several ready to his 
hand, before Felix, radiating backward glances loaded with love, 
vanished over the rushy rim, to be seen no more. 

Nelson returned to his task. The little boy watched the two 
men avidly. Having assisted at Felix's expulsion he felt his self- 
importance rising; he was a man among men. 

"Are you trying to squeeze them alive?" he asked. 

"Yes," said Nelson. Both he and Colonel Harbord were red 
in the face and breathing heavily. 

"Aren't you going to do it to my brother?" the Httle boy 
went on. "He's only small. You could do him easy." He began 
to cry. 

"All in good time," said Colonel Harbord, gruffly. "Elders 
first, you know. We haven't forgotten him." 

They worked on and were rewarded. At what precise moment 
the inertness left Wimbush's body. Nelson could not tell; nor 
did he confide his hopes to Colonel Harbord until he heard a 
catch in Wimbush's breath and, momentarily withdrawing his 
hands, saw a movement in the body which owed nothing to his 
agency. 

Controlling his excitement he said : 

"I believe he's coming round, sir." 

"Good man," said Colonel Harbord, unemotionally. "I 
wish I could say the same of this one." 

A few seconds later Wimbush was obviously breathing 
unaided. But he was still unconscious; when Nelson cautiously 
touched his eyeball, it did not move. 

"Shall I take on the boy now, sir?" 

Colonel Harbord heard the exultation which seemed to 



486 THE BOAT 

accuse him of failure and which Nelson could not keep out of 
his voice. But he was used to seeing others get the credit, and 
he only said, ''I should give him a few more rounds." 

And they were all that was necessary before the gurgling and 
snorting ceased to be the mechanical reactions of an inert 
object, a ad responding to the pressure of air and hand, turned 
into Wimbush. Nelson did not wait to see him re-animated 
but rose stiffly and dropped down beside the boy, whose slip of 
a body seemed to have no substance, so little resistance did it 
offer. Nelson's large thumbs nearly met in the middle of his 
back. Instinctively he reduced the force he had been using, and 
an expression that was almost tender spread across his face. 

The other little boy was so excited that he did not know 
which to look at — the slowly reviving Wimbush, or the brother, 
on whom, he now felt sure, the same miracle was about to be 
performed. His eyes flickered to and fro between them. Wim- 
bush was making curious twitching movements; his hands, 
extended horizontally above his head, clawed feebly at the 
rushes; his feet stirred, and water oozed out of his boots; he 
tried to turn his head which, in fulfilment of the regulations, 
had been laid sideways, into an easier position. 

''Lie still, lie still, Wimbush," said Colonel Harbord in a 
tired, jerky voice. ''You'll be all right if you lie still." 

Wimbush heard him, and ceasing to struggle began to breathe 
more naturally. At last he mumbled in a voice hardly above a 
whisper : 

"Where's Mr. Casson?" 

"He's all right. We're looking after him." 

"I . . . tried ... to warn him," Wimbush said. Having got 
that out, he spoke no more, and there was silence broken only 
by the sounds of respiration. It was as though all the manifold 
processes of life had been reduced to its bare essential: 
breathing. 

Suddenly the little boy cried, "Reg is waking up! I seed him 
move when the policeman wasn't shoving him! Look, Reg, 
look, it's me, it's Harold! Hurry up and get better, Reg! You 
won't half cop it when you get home!" 

Both Nelson's patients had recovered; both had tasted the 
discomforts, the relapses, the tremulous joys of returning 



THE BOAT 487 

consciousness, both had been allowed to sit up, then to stand 
up. Both valued the blessings of the warm air and the bright 
sunlight as perhaps they never would again. To both had been 
rc'granted the lease of life which seems eternal. Only Timothy 
lingered in the land of darkness. 

Nelson was working at him now. Worn out, Colonel Harbord 
sat among the rushes feeling, in one part of his spirit, the resur- 
gence of life around him, and in another a black spot of frustra- 
tion which renewed itself each time he looked at Timothy. 
He looked as little as possible. He did not believe there was any 
chance for Timothy now. As a soldier he had seen too much of 
that kind of thing to be deeply affected by it but as a man he 
grieved — grieved not so much for Timothy, who was a stranger 
to him, as for a lost hope, a hope of restoring to harmony some- 
thing which, on account of Timothy, had become discordant. 
And the fact that the others were on their legs again only made 
his sense of failure the more bitter. 

He looked at the pool. The boat had sunk up to its gun- 
whales, even the hole in its side was hidden. The blow that 
scuttled it had ripped off the Soviet standard; all that stuck 
up was the stern seat and behind, the Union Jack, which flapped 
idly in response to the aimless drifting of the boat. Colonel 
Harbord did not fail to notice his country's flag, and being 
ignorant of its previous association with the Hammer and 
Sickle, his heart warmed to Timothy. 

From here, the Devil's Staircase looked a meagre torrent, 
hardly a cascade, just a slope down which the river came in 
gentle leaps, spreading fronds of water with no lethal suggestion 
in them. Indeed his eyes had grown so used to the waterfall as 
a shape that its texture hardly seemed to move. Some picked 
men could have scaled it, and given the enemy at the top a nasty 
shock. But to Timothy in his boat, bumping and slithering 
from ledge to ledge, it must have seemed a different proposition, 
and he could enter into the feelings of the oarsman, who had 
started out so gaily, when he found his skill did not avail him. 

A champion. Nelson had said. Very likely Nelson exag- 
gerated but the thought had taken root in Colonel Harbord 's 
mind, and in all the long minutes through which he had tried 
to coax Timothy back to life it was a champion whose body he 



488 THE BOAT 

was manipulating, a champion who had come to Upton to 
enjoy his pastime, and who for one reason and another, had 
not been able to. A champion, a sportsman, one of us. 

Still keeping his eyes on the landscap